The Bay County Road Commission often receives requests to install signs warning drivers of the possible presence of children at play. Concerned citizens fail to realize that these signs are deceiving and ineffective.
Drivers already expect the presence of children in residential areas, especially at certain times, and studies show that devices attempting to warn motorists of normal conditions or conditions that are not always present fail to achieve the desired safety benefits.
False Sense of Security
“Children at Play” signs also tend to create a false sense of security for parents and children who believe the signs provide an added degree of protection when motorists, particularly local ones, actually pay little attention to them. The use of “Children at Play” and similar signs such as “Slow” or “Slow – Residential Area” has long been discouraged since these signs are a direct and open suggestion to small children that playing in or beside the roadway is acceptable.
Parents also seem to believe such signs may help reduce speeds. There is no evidence that these signs prevent accidents or reduce the speed of vehicles. If problems with speeding exist, stricter enforcement should be sought from the appropriate law enforcement authorities.
Road Commission Policy on “Children At Play” Signs
“Children at Play” and similar signs are not recognized by the State or the Federal Highway Administration as official traffic control devices and therefore, the Bay County Road Commission discourages their use. However, under special circumstances, and at the request and expense of Townships the Road Commission will install them.
Lower Speed Limits
Citizens frequently request low speed limit signs on residential streets where children are playing. The un-posted speed limit on a residential street is automatically 25 mph and can be enforced. The Road Commission cannot post speed limits lower than 25mph because the posting of such signs by a government agency is considered a speed trap and therefore makes enforcement of such limits illegal.
Prohibiting Trucks in Residential Areas
To help make residential streets safer for children to play on, citizens also frequently request signs that say:
Whenever such signs are installed, not all vehicles over 3000 lbs. are prohibited from using these posted streets. Exemptions to posted weight restrictions include: emergency vehicles; vehicles used in transporting passengers such as buses; vehicles used in conjunction with building construction or delivery; vehicles used for local pickup or delivery; vehicles used by local businesses to gain access to and from the business. It requires a Road Commission resolution to establish weight restrictions on a street and high visibility enforcement to make such signs effective. Therefore the Road Commission posts such signs only on streets where there is a documented large volume of heavy traffic that does not have a legitimate reason to use such streets.
Addressing the Safety of Young Children
Unnecessary signs confuse and annoy drivers and fosters disrespect for all signs, but signs in accordance with the Michigan Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices can and should be posted for school zones and pedestrian crossings as well as playgrounds and other recreational areas where a need exists.
Most importantly, parents should teach children the dangers of playing in or near roadways and strongly discourage them from doing so, and encourage them to play in areas they can play safely with proper supervision.
The Bay County Road Commission takes its role in solving traffic problems very seriously, yet the ultimate responsibility for safety rests with you, the citizens of Bay County. Since we receive an abundance of citizen requests per year, we cannot always investigate your request as quickly as we would like to. However, we will respond after carefully evaluating your request. We appreciate your patience and understanding.