Written by Gregory Monte.
When it comes to traffic regulation, all states have adopted either the Federal Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) or a similar state version of the same.
This means that a state must follow the very strict guidelines specified in that manual if it hopes to enforce any traffic restriction that it establishes on its highways.
Here is an example of one of those guidelines:
Federal MUTCD 2B.10: “No items other than retroreflective strips or official traffic control signs shall be mounted on the fronts or backs of STOP or YIELD signs supports.”
“No items other than … official traffic control signs shall be mounted …”
Then why do I see so may stop signs with street signs on top of them?
Is a street sign actually a “traffic-control” device?
My first thought after reading this section of the MUTCD was that any combination stop/street sign was illegal and unenforceable. After all, in what sense is a street sign really controlling traffic?
But then I looked up the formal definition of a “traffic-control device” and changed my mind.
“Traffic Control Device—a sign, signal, marking, or other device used to regulate, warn, or guide traffic …”
Furthermore, Section D of the MUTCD (“Guide Signs – Conventional Roads”) clearly suggests that street signs are actually used for traffic control:
“Guide signs are essential to direct road users along streets and highways, … ”
My “common sense” reasoning was trumped by the clear wording of the MUTCD. This is why I always turn to the code when I want to provide advice or information about fighting traffic tickets. When you face a judge in court, the only way you will win is if you can reference the law. I call this approach “winning on a technicality,” but it is nothing more than finding a specific part of the code that supports your defense. If you do this, a judge has no choice but to accept it and find you not guilty. Hoping to win based on personal testimony/opinion is bound to end in failure – especially if the police officer who gave you the ticket contradicts what you claim.