Frequently asked questions regarding signs and traffic control
- Who decides where traffic control devices are placed?
- Can you install a "children at play" sign on my street?
- How are speed limits established?
- There have been a lot of accidents at a corner in our neighborhood. I think we should have a traffic signal there. If I get enough signatures, can we have one?
Who decides where traffic control devices are placed?
Traffic signs, pavement markings and traffic signals are the result of an engineering study conducted by the road department. The road department has the responsibility to place traffic signs and traffic signals at locations that have met a specific list of warrants or guidelines that are found in the Michigan Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices. To be effective, traffic controls should meet five basic requirements:
- 1.Fulfill a need,
- 2.Command attention,
- 3.Convey a clear, simple message,
- 4.Command the respect of road users, and
- 5.Give adequate time for proper response.
Specific warning signs for schools, playgrounds, parks and other recreational facilities where persons are gathered and may be vulnerable are listed in the Michigan Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices and available for use where clearly justified. The manual has lists of traffic signs that can be used and also their proper size and installation. The manual also describes pavement markings and their specific uses.[Top]
Can you install a "children at play" sign on my street?
At first consideration, it might seem that this sign would provide protection for youngsters playing in a neighborhood. It doesn’t. Studies conducted in cities where such signs were widely posted in residential areas show no evidence of having reduced pedestrian crashes, vehicles speeds or legal liability. In fact, many types of signs which were installed to warn of normal conditions in residential areas failed to achieve the desired safety benefits. Further, if signs encourage parents to believe that children have an added degree of protection – which the signs do not and cannot provide – a great disservice results. Obviously, children shouldn’t be encouraged to play in the roadway. The "children at play" sign is a direct and open suggestion that it is acceptable to do so. Technically, it is illegal for children to play in the street. "Children at play" signs do not fulfill a need because children should not be playing in the street, and do not convey a clear, simple message, other than implying to the children that it is acceptable to play in the street. Federal standards discourage the use of "children at play" signs. The Michigan Vehicle Code prohibits the installation of any sign that is not specified in the Michigan Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices and the "children at play" sign is not included in the manual.[Top]
How are speed limits established?
Please view the Establishing Realistic Speed Limits brochure from the Michigan State Police Office. You can also learn more about speed limits by reading Section 257.627 of the Michigan Vehicle Code. Complaints regarding the speed of traffic and even petitions for lower speeds are very common. The Michigan Vehicle Code requires that drivers should, at all times, drive at "reasonable and proper" speeds, given the conditions. The law states: "Any person driving a vehicle on a highway shall drive at a careful and prudent speed not greater than nor less than what is reasonable and proper, having due regard to the traffic, surface and width of the highway and of any other conditions; and no person shall drive any vehicle upon a highway at a speed greater than will permit him to bring it to a stop within the assured clear distance ahead.
"Prima facie" speed limits
The Michigan Vehicle Code sets speed limits for roads even where no speed limit is posted. These unposted speed limits are known as "prima facie" speed limits. The prima facie speed limits identified in the law are:
- Residential and business streets: Where no speed limit is posted, the prima facia speed limit on paved or gravel residential streets and streets in business districts is 25 mph.
- Parks: Unless a different speed is posted, the prima facie speed limit in parks is also 25 mph.
- Highways: On highways outside of residential or business districts, if no speed limit is posted, the prima facie speed limit is 55 mph.
When the prima facie limit is considered too high on a county road, the state police, in conjunction with the road department, conduct a speed study to determine the "reasonable and proper" speed for the road. Road agencies around the country have established standardized methods for conducting speed studies. These methods include engineering and traffic studies that examine such things as current traffic speed, traffic volume, accident rates, the character of the street (whether there are sidewalks, the number of driveways, sight obstructions, etc.), pedestrian activities and potential hazards that might not easily be detected by drivers. To get an enforceable speed limit set or changed on a county road, it is necessary that the state police conduct a speed study and that the state police and the road department concur on the speed limit. Unless the state police concur with the proposed speed limit, it is not legally enforceable.[Top]
There have been a lot of accidents at a corner in our neighborhood. I think we should have a traffic signal there. If I get enough signatures, can we have one?
Petitions are not a basis for the installation of a new traffic signal. Michigan has developed a set of 11 guidelines, called warrants, to determine whether a traffic signal is needed. Information such as:
- Is the main road’s traffic flow so constant that side-road traffic cannot enter or cross the main road?
- Have a significant number of accidents occurred at this intersection?
Request for traffic signals are reviewed, with the decision based on the 11 warrants.[Top]