Written by Gregory Monte.
Back in early September I wrote a blog post which explained why a short stop sign is unenforceable: A Short Stop Sign Cannot Be Enforced
Well it turns out that a SMALL stop sign also cannot be enforced for similar reasons.
The MUTCD is the “Bible” When it Comes to Beating Tickets
As usual, I turn to the Federal Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) when I want to know the requirements for installation of regulatory signs. If the strict rules specified in the MUTCD are not followed (they are called Standards), any traffic ticket based on the non-compliant sign cannot be enforced.
When it comes to stop sign size, MUTCD Section 2A.11 and MUTCD Section 2B.03 are very clear: “… unless engineering judgment determines that other sizes are appropriate …” a 36 inch x 36 inch sign is required in each of the following situations:
- On an expressway
- Intersection of a any side road and a highway that has a speed limit of 45 mph or more
- Intersection of a multi-lane side road with a street that has a speed limit of 40 mph or less (if it is a single lane side road the size only has to be 30” x 30”)
- Intersection of any multi-lane side road with another road
Incidentally, bike stop signs don’t follow the same rules:
- A shared-use bike path sign must be at least 18” x 18”
- If a bike path meets a road the sign must be at least 30” x 30”
Beating a Ticket Based on a Small Stop Sign
Why does any of this matter?
Because if you get a ticket based on a non-conforming stop sign, most state motor vehicle statutes provide a technicality which helps you beat that ticket. You can find this technicality in the motor vehicle section called “Obedience to and required traffic-control devices.” When you read the examples below, note the underlined/bold parts. Motorists only have to obey traffic-control devices if they have been “placed in accordance with the provisions of …” the motor vehicle code. A smaller than required stop sign is, by definition, not in accordance with the code.
Here are some examples of specific state statutes:
New York Section 1110 – “Every person shall obey the instructions of any official traffic-control device applicable to him placed in accordance with the provisions of this chapter …”
Hawaii Section 291C-31 – “The driver of any vehicle shall obey the instructions of any official traffic-control device applicable thereto placed in accordance with law …”
Pennsylvania Section 3111 – “… the driver of any vehicle shall obey the instructions of any applicable official traffic-control device placed or held in accordance with the provisions of this title …”
Florida Section 316.074 – “The driver of any vehicle shall obey the instructions of any official traffic control device applicable thereto, placed in accordance with the provisions of this chapter …”
If you get a stop sign ticket and the sign is smaller than required, check to make sure that your state motor vehicle code has a section similar to the ones I quoted above. If so, you can beat that ticket.
One Possible Caveat
MUTCD Section 2A.11 does provide one “out” for states/municipalites that install small signs:
“The sizes shown in the Minimum columns that are smaller than the sizes shown in the Conventional Road columns in the various sign size tables in this Manual shall only be used on low-speed roadways, alleys, and private roads open to public travel where the reduced legend size would be adequate for the regulation or warning or where physical conditions preclude the use of larger sizes.”
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