Specialty Warning Signs

There is a hierarchy of signs that must be present within any roadway; Regulatory, Warning, and Guide signs.

Sign Hierarchy

Agencies must strike the right balance and only install signs that are necessary and effective. Warning signs inform drivers of unexpected changes in the roadway and dangers that are not readily apparent. As such warning signs are most effective if they warn drivers of hazards that are always present, e.g. sharp curves or low clearance heights at a bridge crossing. Specialty warning signs that warn of infrequent conditions or general possibilities such as deer crossings, slippery road when wet, or children at play signs, are routinely ignored by drivers. Specialty warning signs can also create the false impression that areas without warning signs don’t have hazards. This inconsistent driver behavior creates an unsafe environment for motorists and pedestrians.

This video was produced by the Minnesota Local Road Research Board, and explains which warning signs are necessary and effective, and which may be counterproductive.

Children at Play signs

Children at PlaySome cities have posted “CHILDREN AT PLAY” signs in residential areas despite studies showing that generalized signs warning of normal conditions such as children in a residential area fail to achieve the desired safety benefits. "CHILDREN AT PLAY" signs may give parents and children a false sense of security as the sign is assumed to provide protection which in reality it does not. Due to these serious considerations, federal standards no longer recommend the use of "CHILDREN AT PLAY" signs. Special conditions such as warnings of school zones, playgrounds, parks and other recreational facilities, do warrant signing as these are not easily anticipated by drivers.

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