Stop Signs Are Not For Speed Control

Image of what stop signs look likeThe neighbourhoods where we live are important to us. When we see problems like vehicles speeding past our homes or a volume of traffic that disturbs the peace and quiet we want to act to solve our problem. One of the first things that we demand is for the authorities to put up stop signs.

What Stop Signs Are Intended For

The stop sign is an effective traffic control devices when it is used in the right place and in the proper situation. The sign's job is to help road users to decide who has the right of way at an intersection.

What Stop Signs Are Not Intended For

Putting up a stop sign to arbitrarily interrupt through traffic on a street is a common misuse.

Instead, provincial guidelines should decide when a stop sign is necessary. The guidelines take into consideration variables such as the probability of vehicles arriving at an intersection at the same time, the length of time traffic must wait to enter, traffic delays, and the availability of safe crossing opportunities.

The Stop Sign as a Speed Control

Vehicle speeds are only slowed at the sign and drivers tend to accelerate from them, often reaching speeds higher than before the stop sign was installed. This attempt to make up for lost time is one reason that stop signs are not effective as a speed control.

Reducing Traffic Volumes

Drivers will find the path of least resistance. If they can find a route with fewer traffic controls, they will take it. In many cases, this simply pushes the traffic elsewhere in the neighbourhood. Your problem is solved but it now causes problems for others nearby.

Disobeying the Sign

Like speed limit signs, drivers will ignore a stop sign that they think is not necessary. If they rarely see other traffic present it's easy to decide that there is no need to stop. This could lead to an increase in collisions.


Stops and starts at intersections will increase the noise and exhaust pollution levels around them. 

Unintended Consequences

Are you ready to trade one problem for another?

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Perhaps as a long term solution stop signs should not be used to slow traffic.  But, I've seen them work very well.

You may have heard of Sturgis and their yearly 10 day motorcycle rally.  It's quite an operation.

From a policing perspective the small 17 member Sturgis Police Force is augmented by many many police officer from around the US.  The Sturgis police won't divulge how many officers they add to their numbers but say it becomes the 3rd or 4th largest police force in the state for those 10 days.  I don't know how they do it, I'm sure they are all sworn in on a temporary basis, given a Sturgis "police" T shirt, they use their own police equipment, such as weapon etc and they are for the 10 days Sturgis police.

In the town to limit speeds, EVERY intersection is equipped with stop signs in all directions. Considering the types of enthusiasts the motorcycle rally attracts they need simple ways of limiting speed and 4 ways stops works.