Thursday, May 01, 2008

Nothing funny about quirky stop sign campaign

The Illinois Department of Transportation wasn't amused by the city of Oak Lawn's humorous attempt to cut down on speeding. Back in September, the city posted satirical STOP signs with messages like "WHOAAA" underneath the federally-approved, traditional stop signs. Several months and $1,700 later, the DOT has ordered the signs removed.

IDOT stated in a letter that the signs violate the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices, the instructional bible for all things transportation safety-related. There are several areas in which the supplemental signs can be considered in violation, including:

* Authority for Placement of Traffic Control Devices states that traffic control devices should be "placed only as authorized by a public authority or the official having jurisdiction..." Not sure if the mayor qualifies or not, as the city's department of public works usually handles putting up and taking down signs. (This is the reason that many of us sign collectors run into so much governmental red tape when we try to legally obtain discarded signs and signals from the street department. The DOT does not want ordinary citizens erecting discarded signs all over the city. I'd love to put up a NO PARKING sign in front of my house so that neighbors don't block the view from my front window.)

* Placement and Operation of Traffic Control Devices states that "unnecessary traffic control devices should be removed." The approved STOP sign alone should do the trick (although it apparently isn't working on its own, which is why Oak Lawn is in this debacle to begin with). But the MUTCD also states that too much of a good thing - in this case, multiple STOP signs - can be highly ineffective.

* Uniformity of Traffic Control Devices states that all signs should conform to the guidelines outlined in the Standard Highway Signs manual - a thick book of blueprints of traffic signs. This is extra sensitive when it deals with the wording on a STOP sign, which has a unique shape and color to make it one of the most recognizable symbol in the world.

I can see both sides of the argument: The mayor attempted to come up with a unique and eye-catching way of slowing speeders... I'm in marketing and understand the effectiveness of a brilliant campaign. At the same time, IDOT must uphold the regulations outlined in the MUTCD and slap the hands of those who don't.

This really demonstrates the DOT's low tolerance for humor when it comes to STOP signs, and strict policies overall. This dry personality problem is not exclusive to just this government body (When was the last time you had a good, fun chat with someone who works at your local license branch? Really, that long ago??).

But, they are just doing their jobs, and I am sure that they are a fun bunch of drunken party people once they're outside of the office.

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