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What effect do in-street crosswalk signs have on drivers?

Example in-street sign.

Motorist compliance with crosswalk laws increased dramatically in Atlanta and Decatur, Georgia, after in-street crosswalk signs similar to the ones shown in the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) were installed. Pedestrian confidence levels also increased, with more walkers asserting their rights instead of simply waving motorists on. Some drivers slow down even when pedestrians are not in the crosswalk. Police officers have sometimes targeted their enforcement efforts at intersections where such signs are installed because they find it easier to make their cases in court. The signs have been especially effective where drivers travel at 30 mph or less. Motorist compliance usually declines as the number of lanes and/or speed limits increase.

The choice of which of the two MUTCD in-street crosswalk sign to use, R1-6 Yield to Pedestrians or R1-6a Stop for Pedestrians, depends upon the language contained in the state statute or local ordinance. Most often, the signs are used in conjunction with a clearly striped crosswalk. When designed according to the specifications in MUTCD, the signs are visible from a far greater distance than previous signs that used the word "stop" rather than the stop sign symbol, making it more likely that drivers will be prepared to stop. Pedestrian advocates in Atlanta have not seen an increase in drivers stopping unnecessarily since the city switched to using the red and white stop symbol instead of the word "stop".

Upon initial installation, expect a range of driver responses, such as occurred in Florissant, Missouri, in 2005. Driver reaction ran the gamut from totally ignoring the signs to stopping when no pedestrian was present, indicating a lack of understanding of the sign's requirement. This is a reminder that education and enforcement must accompany the placement of these signs.