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Stop Signage: Frequently Asked Questions 

Q. What does a stop sign mean?

A.

A regulatory sign, a stop sign is a traffic control device that tells drivers that they must come to a complete stop. The vehicle must stop at a stop line, crosswalk, or intersection, whichever comes first. Stop signs imply that drivers must let pedestrians and approaching vehicles pass and proceed only when it is safe to do so.

Q. Is it necessary to come to a complete halt at a stop sign?

A.

Yes, drivers must come to a complete halt at a stop sign and not merely reduce the speed or crawl forward. Termed as a ‘rolling stop’, these tactics are illegal and can invite punitive action.

Q. Is there any regulation or standard around stop signs?

A.

Information specific to stop sign design, standard, and application is detailed in the MUTCD guidelines. These guidelines require regulatory stop signs to be an octagon and have a white legend and border on a red background. Guidance about the installation of stop signs where a full stop is necessary at an intersection and on minor-street approaches as deemed necessary following engineering judgment is provided. 

You may also understand the specifics related to the use of supplemental ‘All way’ plaques and multi-way stop applications in these guidelines.

Q. Can anyone install a stop sign?

A.

Regulatory stop signs at intersections and street approaches are installed after careful consideration and in compliance with MUTCD guidelines. Over/unnecessary use of these stop signs can defeat their purpose and cause chaos in place of controlling traffic, and hence, the decision to install these is usually taken after consultation with local traffic control authorities, traffic engineers, or other relevant local bodies. 

Other stop sign usage, for instance, to control traffic flow in parking lots, is a common way to prevent accidents and is not usually enforceable unless done after explicit authority permission.

Q. Are stop signs on a private property’s lot legally enforceable?

A.

Stop signs installed on private properties are usually unenforceable unless the property owner has reached an agreement with the local law enforcement agency to have officers ticket violators. That being said, it is a good practice to install these signs as these can serve as a legal cushion in the event of an accident on the property. The owner can then argue that safety measures were taken on his part.

Please check with your local authority for more accurate information.

Q. Does the MUTCD apply to stop signs installed on private roads?

A.

The MUTCD provisions apply to all traffic control devices installed on roads open to public travel. This applies to stop signs on publicly accessible private roads as well. Failure to comply with these provisions can expose the private road owner to tort liability if an injury or death occurs on the property.

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