Stop Signs & 4-Way Stop Justification

Multi-way stop control can be useful as a safety measure at intersections if certain conditions exist. An engineering study of traffic conditions, pedestrians, bicyclists, and physical characteristics of the intersection is first gathered. This data is then compared to the national guidelines for "multi-way stop sign installations" for determining whether a 4-way stop is justified. It is important to note that the intended use of a 4-way stop is to enhance overall intersection safety and/or efficiency.

To request a new stop sign, submit a form through Durham OneCall, using the ‘Other’ category.

Justification Requirements

  • Interim Measure:
    • Where a traffic signal is warranted, multi-way stop control is an interim measure that can be implemented quickly to control traffic until the signal is designed and installed.
  • Crash Experience:
    • A crash problem is characterized as 5 or more reported accidents in a 12-month period that are susceptible to correction by multi-way stop control. Such crashes include right and left turn collisions as well as right-angle collisions.
  •  Vehicular Volume:
    • Total vehicular volume entering the intersection from all approaches must average 300 vehicles per hour for any 8 hours of an average day and the combined vehicular, pedestrian, and bicycle volume from the minor street approaches must average 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 maximum hour. However, the minimum threshold is 70% of the values noted above when the 85th percentile speed of traffic approaching on the major street exceeds 40 mph.
  •  Other Criteria Considered:
    • The need to control left-turn conflicts
    • The need to control vehicle /pedestrian conflicts
    • Sight distance restrictions
    • Where equal approach volumes exist and would improve operation

 Important to note: Multi-way stop control can be useful as a safety measure when used appropriately. Stop signs should not be viewed as a cure-all.

Stop Sign Misconceptions

Many people believe that stop signs reduce speeding on residential streets, when in fact the opposite has been observed. Traffic and safety engineers note that drivers may actually increase their speeds between signs to compensate for the time they lost by stopping. Unnecessary or unwarranted stop sign placement is likely to result in noncompliance; thus, resulting in more crashes.

Another popular misconception is that stop signs act as a deterrent for cut-through residential traffic. Studies have not only revealed that speeds are affected for only 100 to 150 feet before and after stop sign placement, but traffic volume remains unchanged as well. In addition, too many stop signs can cause drivers to ignore the right-of-way rule or some drivers may simply choose to ignore the stop sign.

In summary, stop signs should not be used for speed or volume control.