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There is no real evidence to indicate that stop signs decrease the speed of traffic. Impatient drivers view the additional delay caused by unwarranted stop signs as "lost time" to be made up by driving at higher speeds between stop signs.
Unwarranted stop signs breed disrespect by motorists who tend to ignore them or slow down without stopping. These "roll through" stops can sometimes lead to tragic consequences.
Unwarranted stop signs also create negative environmental impacts via increased CO2 emissions, decreased fuel efficiency, and degraded neighborhood sound/air quality.
The purpose of the stop sign is to prevent collisions. It is not intended, nor shall it be used for the control of speed, traffic calming, or to forestall pedestrian, rear-end, or turning movement accidents.
To insure uniformity in stop sign studies and recommendations, the warrants as provided in the 2003 MUTCD. Section 2B.05 will govern.
Multi-way stop Signs must meet the warrant criteria as outlined in Section 2B.07 of the 2003 MUTCD.
Source: Massachusetts amendments to the 2003 manual on uniform traffic control devices and the standard municipal traffic code, October 2006
Is this an intersection of a minor road with a main road where application of the normal right-of-way rule (e.g. yield to the right) is unduly hazardous?
Is this an intersection where a street enters an arterial (major) street?
Is this an intersection where a combination of speed, restricted view and reported crash history indicates a need for control by the stop sign?
Where traffic control signals are justified, the multiway stop is an interim measure that can be installed quickly to control traffic while arrangements are being made for the installation of the traffic control signal.
A crash problem, as indicated by 5 or more reported crashes in a 12-month period that are susceptible to correction by a multiway stop installation. Such crashes include right- and left-turn collisions as well as right-angle collisions.
Minimum volumes:The vehicular volume entering the intersection from the major street approaches (total of both approaches) averages at least 300 vehicles per hour for any 8 hours of an average day, and
The combined vehicular, pedestrian, and bicycle volume entering the intersection from the minor street approaches (total of both approaches) averages at least 200 units per hour for the same 8 hours, with an average delay to minor-street vehicular traffic of at least 30 seconds per vehicle during the highest hour, but
f the 85th-percentile approach speed of the major-street traffic exceeds 65 km/h or exceeds 40 mph, the minimum vehicular volume warrants are 70 percent of the above values.
Where no single criterion is satisfied, but where Criteria B, C.1, and C.2 are all satisfied to 80 percent of the minimum values. Criterion C.3 is excluded from this condition.
source: 2003 Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD)
Sometimes these traffic studies are conducted for the city by an outside entity like the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission (PVPC) or, in the case of a new commercial or housing project, by private engineering firms paid for by the project developer.
The unofficial rules of thumb at four-way stop intersections are as follows:
If you are the only vehicle at the intersection, stop, look all ways, and proceed.
If there is already another vehicle at the intersection, it has the right-of-way.
If two vehicles arrive at the same time, the vehicle on the right has the right-of way.
Research has shown that unwarranted stop signs and stop signs that have been used for speed control, do not have the effect desired. Speeds between the stop signs increase as drivers try to make up for lost time. Drivers tend to roll through the unwarranted stop signs with higher frequency (over 50%).
Traffic accidents at unwarranted stop controlled intersection are often higher than when the intersection was uncontrolled or two-way stop controlled. There is also an increase in noise and air pollution levels to nearby residents as the result of vehicles braking and accelerating.
Stop signs cannot be viewed as a cure-all for solving all safety problems, but, when properly located, they can be useful traffic control devices to enhance safety for all roadway users.