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Crosswalk Safety and the Temporary Stop Sign: A History of Growing Acceptance

Ensuring crosswalk safety is especially important in locations around schools, medical clinics, and other important public and private facilities.  These locations receive large amounts of pedestrian traffic during their hours of operation.  In addition, these facilities usually provide services to children, the elderly, those with physical impairments, and others who are at special risk.  The temporary stop sign has long played a key role in maintaining safe, orderly traffic flow in these areas.  But for several decades its use existed in a regulatory gray zone that has only been clarified in recent years.   This has occurred thanks to clarifications made in the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) along with a developing body of research that documents the effectiveness of temporary signs compared to permanent signage.


Historical Examples

In 1978, the state of Iowa commissioned a study to determine whether the use of a temporary stop sign was effective in promoting crosswalk safety.  Researchers conducted field surveys at 54 locations across 33 communities.  Their efforts yielded the following data:

·       The percentage of vehicles that came to a complete stop at both temporary and permanent signs was identical.

·       Accident rates at locations using a temporary stop sign were in line with those where permanent signage was in place.  This is especially significant, given that crosswalk safety concerns are highest in areas where temporary signage is most commonly used.

·       Temporary stop signs were judged to be more economically efficient when compared to permanent signs while levels of public safety in surrounding areas showed no measurable difference.


Since that 1978 study, a number of other states have obtained similar results in repeated experiments.  As a result, the current edition of the MUTCD allows for use of a temporary stop sign for short-term periods.  This is important reassurance for those tasked with the job of maintaining crosswalk safety.  When used within proper guidelines, portable signage is just as effective as permanent markers for safeguarding pedestrians and directing vehicular traffic.