Stop Signs in Neighborhoods
|City of Yakima, Washington Department of Public Works
Streets and Traffic Division
Each year, the City of Yakima gets numerous requests to install stop signs within a neighborhood, most often as a response to speeding on residential streets. Traffic safety is a priority for the city and these requests are taken seriously. However, the purpose of stop signs is to assign which vehicle has right of way and to make sure traffic flows are smooth and predictable.
Why isn’t there a stop sign at every intersection?
In many neighborhoods, there are no traffic control signs because the volume of traffic is very low. Washington State law (RCW 46.61.180) describes the rules for right of way when two or more vehicles approach an intersection, which give preference to the vehicle on the right. Stop signs play an important role in traffic safety. National standards have been established to determine when stop signs should be installed. Traffic speed and volumes, sight distance, and the frequency of “gaps in traffic” are major considerations.
Will more stop signs reduce speeding in my neighborhood?
As with any traffic control device, overuse of stop signs will cause many drivers to ignore them, creating a more hazardous situation of non-compliance, especially on residential streets with low traffic volumes. Many drivers consider a stop sign to be a substantial inconvenience and will tend to speed up after they move through the intersection. Recent studies of stop signs used as speed control devices in the City of Pueblo, Colorado indicated that vehicle speeds were slower within 150 feet of a stop sign, but after that went back to the same speeds or higher. In addition, the resulting “stop and go traffic” from stop signs increases air pollution from vehicle emissions, wastes fuel and creates more traffic noise. Studies by the cities of Portland, Oregon and Boulder, Colorado have found that stop signs are not very effective in reducing neighborhood speeding, and the problems may outweigh the benefits within the neighborhood.
How do I get a stop sign on my street?
To get a review started, call or write the Traffic Engineering Division. The City of Yakima’s Traffic Engineering Division evaluates an intersection or street corridor, following State and Federal standards. The Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD), published by the Federal Highway Administration provides the guidelines for state and local government agencies when evaluating an intersection for stop sign control.
When citizen concerns are expressed regarding speeding in a residential area, the City of Yakima will conduct a review within a broader context of neighborhood circulation. Specifically, the street in question is examined as it relates to nearby classified streets and the surrounding residential streets. Often the area of review is a square four block area (or larger). Staff will identify existing stop and yield signs, and collect traffic volume and collision data. A pattern for possible new stop signs may be laid out for the neighborhood to clarify right of way assignments and create a more orderly traffic system.
Neighborhood Stop Sign Policy
As documented in many national studies, a stop sign is not a cure-all for solving the traffic safety problems in a neighborhood. However, the City of Yakima has found that thoughtful placement of stop signs on a neighborhood level, may create a more consistent driving pattern, reduce cut-through traffic of vehicles seeking to avoid arterial streets, and have some impact on travel speed between arterial streets. The severity of collisions may also be reduced with this approach, as vehicle speeds are somewhat reduced at the stopped intersections. The neighborhood approach used in Yakima emphasizes the placement of stop signs such that motorists would only be able to travel through two neighborhood intersections before reaching a stop sign.
Four-Way Stop Patterns
The most restrictive stop sign control is placement of four-way (sometimes called all-way) stop signs. National standards reserve the four-way stop to intersections where the traffic volumes are relatively heavy and nearly equal on both roads. In some cases, collision history plays a role in the placement of a four-way stop installation. Some neighborhood locations may be recommended for installation of all –way (or four-way) stop signs. In some cases, warning flashers will be added to the intersection to alert motorists.
What else can be done to reduce speeding in the neighborhoods?
Traffic Calming Program. In 1995, the Yakima City Council adopted a program for reviewing and prioritizing neighborhood requests for Traffic Calming Devices. Typical improvements through the Traffic Calming Program may include speed humps, traffic circles, diverters, cul-de-sacs or curb chokers. Current examples of this Traffic Calming Program include speed humps located along Scenic Drive, in the vicinity of 58th Avenue, and on Viola Avenue, in the vicinity of 20th Avenue. More information about the Traffic Calming Program can be found on the streets web page.
Speed Limits. Currently, all streets within the City of Yakima are regulated at 25 miles per hour unless otherwise posted . Most neighborhood streets are signed 25 miles per hour, except some located near schools and parks, which are signed at 20 miles per hour. Additionally, in 2001 the Yakima City Council adopted an ordinance to limit the speed limit on gravel streets to 20 miles per hour which reduce dust and air pollution on these streets.
Not all streets have speed limit signs. The City of Yakima places speed limit signs where a change in the speed occurs, or where there is a change in the street section. To prevent visual clutter, a minimum number of signs are placed on neighborhood streets.
Organize Your Neighborhood. The Yakima Police Department has several community based programs to inform residents of neighborhood safety issues. When neighbors know each other and communicate together, many of their concerns can be shared. Many studies have proven that often the vehicles speeding in the neighborhood belong to residents of the neighborhood. To find out more about organizing your neighborhood, you may want to visit the Yakima Police Department site.
Intersection Clearview Enforcement. The Yakima Municipal Code establishes minimum requirements for visibility at city street intersections. Driver safety is often improved when vegetation is trimmed at the street intersections. If you have concerns about a particular location, please contact the City of Yakima Traffic Engineering Office at (509)575-6005.
The City of Yakima is committed to providing a safe and efficient street network. Staff will attempt to respond to all inquiries in a timely manner. Please drive carefully!