This past month I received some inquiries from folks wondering how they can get a stop sign on their street or a traffic signal at certain intersections. Specifically, they asked if a petition would be needed. I know I’ve addressed this topic before, but I thought it might be time to touch on it once again.
The simple answer is that cities don’t control these decisions. The State of Ohio regulates traffic signs and signals, based on guidelines provided by the Federal Government.
The Ohio Revised Code (ORC), Section 4511.09, requires the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) to adopt a manual for a uniform system of traffic control devices that conforms to the system approved by the Federal Highway Administration. To this end, ODOT publishes the Ohio Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices (Manual). This manual establishes standards for the design and use of traffic control devices that conform to the national Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices published by the Federal Highway Administration. Section 4511.11 of the ORC requires that all local authorities in their respective jurisdictions place and maintain traffic control devices in conformance with the Manual.
Traffic lights and stop signs may be installed only if the intersection meets certain “warrants” outlined in the Manual. These warrants can include high traffic counts, sight-line issues, proximity to another signaled intersection, frequency of accidents, etc. It is important to note that “slowing down traffic” is not included on the list of warrants. In other words, cities are prohibited from erecting signals or stop signs simply to slow down traffic.
The reason the Federal and State governments take such an active role in this process is to try and establish some uniformity as we drive from community to community. There are also very valid safety reasons.
While most people feel that additional lights or stop signs will prevent accidents, the reverse is usually the case. Most accidents happen where signals and stop signs are placed. The reason is that drivers and pedestrians come to trust the traffic signals, or more precisely, that others will obey the signals. Rather than warily looking right and left, we proceed through the intersection when it is our turn, only to be struck by someone who was not paying attention. It is a sad fact that there have been two fatal pedestrian accidents during my term as Mayor. Both accidents were at signaled intersections and both pedestrians were walking with the green light within the crosswalk. We all need to remember to maintain our “wariness” when proceeding through an intersection.
I hope this helps you to understand the constraints cities are under in erecting new signals and stop signs. Rest assured that we listen to your concerns, however, and do our best to make each intersection as safe as we can.
Have a great month.