A sign warning motorists to drive slowly due to “Children at Play” might seem like a common roadside notification, but it isn’t in Ohio. Such signs are discouraged by the Ohio Department of Transportation.
Yet local communities often receive requests from residents asking for specific road signs in their neighborhoods, such as “Watch for Children” and even “Blind Child.”
Municipalities cannot simply put up such signs, according to local communities. The goal is to try to avoid over signage. The subject arose recently at the Auburn Township Trustees meeting on June 24 after a request for a sign was made.
ODOT officials said the state will not provide these signs because there is no evidence that they reduce accidents.
Auburn Trustee John Eberly said a common problem on roadways is over signage and it leads to people ignoring all signs. The township needs to consider that when requests for signs are made, he said.
Auburn Road Superintendent Emerick Gordon said signs must conform to state and federal standards.
Mr. Gordon said signs stating “Children at Play” give residents a false sense of security.
Mr. Eberly said certain signs are permitted. On Stafford Road for example, there is a sign about tractors in the area. It warns the motoring public that they might encounter a small moving tractor. The township has signs that conform to the federal book which is adopted by the state, he said.
Signs and lights are installed to protect the motoring public, not to protect individuals walking or in the streets, he said. And there are numerous studies showing if too many signs are put up, people won’t pay attention to them, Mr. Eberly said.
The manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices states what signs are to be used so there is uniformity nationwide.
“We’ve always abided by the manual,” Mr. Gordon said. “We have to have a policy in place when a sign is requested,” he said.
South Russell Street Commissioner Darrell Johnson said, “As long as it is a regulatory sign, we don’t have a problem.” Those might include “Dead End” or a speed limit notice.
“In the case of deer-crossing signs, we take direction of the police. If there are a lot of deer, we put it up for awareness,” he said.
Individuals requesting signs must pay for them, Mr. Johnson said.
“Most of the time we are given direction by the police. Any signs we put up are for the general public,” Mr. Johnson said.
Bainbridge Service Director Jim Stanek said if the sign is on a county or state road, the township would defer to that jurisdiction. “I wouldn’t think there would be an objection if there is a legitimate reason and as long as a legitimate reason for doing it,” Mr. Stanek said. “The township would have to sponsor it.”
Geauga County Engineer Joe Cattell said if a sign request is made for a township road his office would review and consider it.
The Ohio manual allows for uniform signs and cuts down on driver confusion, he said. “You can’t simply put up a sign.” There is more harm than good with too many signs, he agreed.
A “Horse Crossing” sign may have a need near a stable, Mr. Cattell said. But “Hidden Drive” signs often are ignored by drivers.
Gene Layne, road superintendent in Russell Township, said he also is governed by the Ohio Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices and cannot arbitrarily put up a sign.
Signs indicating children at play could give residents a false sense of security, Mr. Layne said.