Blue stop sign. It clearly communicates to drivers that they need to stop to not get into an accident.
In some jurisdictions, it is illegal to put up “your own” road signs - even if it is on your own private property. Blue-colored stop signs are a way of circumventing this restriction, as they are technically not legal road signs, but convey the same information.
The only blue stops signs I know of are only in Hawaii and, even then, only on ‘private’ property. I say ‘private’ because most commercial properties also use red stop signs - it seems to me that they’re more properly associated with ancestral historic routes which date from back when Hawaii was a kingdom unto itself.
A stop sign is a traffic sign designed to notify drivers that they must come to a complete stop and make sure the intersection is safely clear of vehicles and pedestrians before continuing past the sign. In many countries, the sign is a red octagon with the word STOP, in either English or the national language of that particular country, displayed in white or yellow. The Vienna Convention on Road Signs and Signals also allows an alternative version: a red circle with a red inverted triangle with either a white or yellow background or a black or dark blue STOP. Some counties may also use other types, such as Japan’s inverted red triangle stop sign. Particular regulations regarding appearance, installation and compliance with the signs vary by some jurisdiction.
Born in 1848 in New York City, William Phelps Eno grew up in a world without stop signs. He saw firsthand the chaos of city intersections packed first with horse-drawn carriages and later with cars. As an adult, he wrote a key article on traffic issues in 1900 advocating for signage and other safety measures, then went to work on traffic plans for New York as well as Long and Paris. Eno is broadly credited with a number of traffic control innovations, including rotary junctions, pedestrian sidewalks and stop signs.
Ask enough people to describe a stop sign and you’ll get some pretty common answers: it has the word “STOP” (at least in the United States) in white lettering; it has eight sides; and of course, it’s red. Everyone knows that.
Let’s focus on the color. Stop signs weren’t always red, even though early urban planners wanted them to be. As the New York Times explained, the idea that “red means stop” predates stop signs, but until the 1950s, you would frequently see yellow and black stop signs like the one below. The reason was a practical one — until 1954, the science behind pigmentation was a limiting factor. Simply put, we didn’t know how to make red signs retroreflective, which meant if you were driving at night, you’d not see a (red) stop sign. Yellow paint, though, didn’t have that drawback. The stop sign below, via an auction site (sorry, it’s already been sold), was used in Milwaukee in the 1920s, and as you’ll note, it’s not red.
But the Times further notes, since then, stop signs have gone red. It’s the law, to some degree. In the U.S., the Federal Highway Authority publishes something called the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices which provides rules for all sorts of traffic signals, including stop signs. And if you look up the design specifications for the stop sign, you’ll see that the rules say that the sign has to be red (with white letters/border) throughout the United States.
But if you drive around the U.S. enough and visit enough states, sooner or later you’ll see a blue stop sign.
In case you can’t tell, that’s a blue stop sign. It looks just like a normal red stop sign — eight sides, white border, white text yelling “STOP” — except that where one would expect to see red, there’s blue instead. They’re real.
As the Honolulu Star-Bulletin reported, the state traffic law has a section which deals with the “display of unauthorized signs, signals, or markings.” That section specifically bars the display of any “sign, signal, marking, or device which purports to be or is an imitation of or resembles an official traffic-control device or railroad sign or signal” by a private person or entity. The law was likely intended to prevent homeowners or the like from putting up stop signs near their property. But the law had a (likely) unintentional consequence: it appeared to regulate large parking lots and private roadways.
That caused a big problem for these big venues. Say, for example, that you’re in charge of a mall parking lot — private property — and you don’t want your patrons driving into one another. Because of that statute, some figured, it may be better to err on the side of caution and go without stop signs. But not having appropriate signage causes a different problem — you still need a way to tell drivers to stop. Enter the blue stop sign. It clearly communicates to drivers that they need to stop to not get into an accident. And it also clearly shows that this isn’t a typical, municipal stop sign. After all, everyone knows that a “real” stop sign is red.
At least, that’s how the blue stop signs likely came to be. It’s not entirely clear whether regular stop signs are forbidden — indeed, most shopping centers in Hawaii use typical, red stop signs — and when the Star-Bulletin asked the Honolulu authorities about the issue (in the article linked above), the city’s Department of Transportation Services replied that “there is nothing to prevent such signs from being red.” So at this point, the blue signs are likely cultural inertia. But they’re still pretty cool.
Bonus Fact: The person most often credited for developing the stop sign, William Phelps Eno (1858-1945), also developed the one-way street, the traffic circle, pedestrian crosswalks, and many of the traffic regulations we commonly use today. But there’s one thing Eno never did — per Wikipedia, he never learned to drive.
The red octagonal field with white English-language stop legend is the most common stop sign used around the world, but it is not universal; Japan uses an inverted solid red triangle, for example, and Zimbabwe until 2016 used a disc bearing a black cross. Moreover, there are many variants of the red-and-white octagonal sign. Although all English-speaking and many other countries use the word stop on stop signs, some jurisdictions use an equivalent word in their primary language instead, or in addition; the use of native languages is common on U.S. native reservations, especially those promoting language revitalization efforts, for example, and Israel uses no word, but rather a pictogram of a hand in a palm-forward “stop” gesture.
Countries in Asia generally use a native word, often in a non-Latin script.
Countries in Europe generally have stop signs with the text stop, regardless of local language. There were some objections to this when introduced around the 1970s, but now this is accepted. Turkey is a notable exception to this, instead using the Turkish word for stop: “dur”.
In Spanish-speaking Caribbean and South American countries (Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Paraguay, Peru, Puerto Rico, Uruguay, and Venezuela), signs bear the legend pare (“stop” in Portuguese and Spanish). Mexico and Central American countries bear the legend alto (“halt”) instead.
In the Canadian province of Quebec, modern signs read either arrêt or stop; however, it is not uncommon to see older signs containing both words in smaller lettering, with arrêt on top
Stop sign placement can pose difficulties and hazards in applications where cross traffic is not controlled by a sign or light. Relatively long distance between the stop sign and the crossroad facilitates accurate perception of the speed of approaching cross traffic, but lengthens the time and distance required to enter and clear the junction. Relatively short distance between the stop sign and the crossroad shortens the time required for safe passage through the intersection, but degrades the ability of the stopped driver to accurately perceive the speed of approaching cross traffic.
Specifically, drivers approaching an intersection from beyond the subtended angular velocity detection threshold (SAVT) limit may be perceived by a stopped driver as standing still rather than approaching which means the stopped driver may not make an accurate decision as to whether it is safe to proceed past the stop sign. Whether the distance between the stop sign and the crossroad is officially short or is shortened by drivers creeping past the stop line, they can lose the visual acuity of lateral motion, leaving them to rely on the SAVT. This can make it difficult to accurately estimate the movement of approaching cross traffic. Get a Quote.
When thinking about stop signs, the first thing that comes to mind is a red octagon sign with white letters saying “STOP.” But it appears that this is not the case in all parts of the world.
Nowadays, the color of stop signs are all red around the world. But in the past, some used to be yellow and blue, too.
In some countries like Ethiopia, Israel and Pakistan, the stop sign is signaled by a hand indicating to stop without any text.
Usually, stop signs have an octagonal shape but there are some countries where the sign is a circle with an upside down triangle inside of it.
Here are the most unusual types of “STOP” signs in the world.
- The first one is in Japan, which is in the shape of an upside down triangle. It’s probably the only sign in the world that has this shape.
- The second one is in Papua New Guinea, which has a completely unique shape compared with other stop signs around the world.
- And the last one is in Nepal, which does not have any text or symbol on it - it’s just a red octagon.
Purpose of road signs:
Traffic signs function similarly to traffic signals as they control the flow of traffic and fulfill fundamental needs of drivers and pedestrians. Generally, traffic signs aim to:
- Grab driver and pedestrian attention
- Convey a clear, simple meaning
- Command respect from road users
- Give adequate time for the proper response (yield, stop etc.)
This eight-sided red sign means STOP. You must make a complete stop at the stop line every time you approach a stop sign. If there is no stop line, stop before entering the crosswalk. If there is no crosswalk, stop before entering the intersection. Always yield the right-of-way to pedestrians and approaching traffic. If it is an all-way STOP sign, wait your turn. If the STOP sign is hand-held, stop until an authorized person, such as a school guard or construction zone flagger, signals that it is safe to proceed.
Yield signs are three-sided red triangular signs that require you give the right-of-way to all vehicles and pedestrians near you. Prior to 1971 yield signs were yellow.
When approaching a yield sign you should slow down to a safe speed and stop if necessary. When stopping, do so at a marked crosswalk or before entering the intersection. You also may see ‘YIELD’ signs on expressway ramps. These type of signs are posted when there is no extra lane for drivers to speed up to or merge with into expressway traffic.
Speed Limit Signs
Posted regulatory signs (i.e., speed limits) are black and white and tell you what you can and can’t do on the road. Some signs show maximum and minimum speed limits for all types of vehicles on freeways and limited access highways. In construction and maintenance zones, posted speeds legally reduce the speed limit on that portion of the highway. Unless necessary for safety, driving slower than the minimum posted speed limit hazardous and illegal.
Pedestrian crossing sign – Traffic control involves keeping everyone safe, including pedestrians. Take heed to these signs so you don’t have to worry about harming someone without the protection of a vehicle.
No bicycles sign – You guessed it. Bicyclists are a part of the traffic control conversation as well. If you’re riding a bicycle to and from work or school, you have road signs to pay attention to as well. This one applies to you and indicates that you’re not allowed to enter a roadway preceded by this sign.
No U-turn sign – We’ve all done it before: driven past our turn and attempt to make a quick u-turn to return to the original route. However, if you see this sign, you can’t legally make a U-turn.
Men at work sign – This sign protects our construction workers! When you see this sign you know you need to take caution as you’re entering an active construction zone in which construction workers are at risk of being hit.
Every road sign has a specific color associated with it. The color of road signs can immediately tell you what they are about. Here are the colors you may be asked about during your written driving exam:
Red – Signs which are red in color refer to situations where you must stop or yield. Obviously, stop signs and yield signs use the color red, but other signs such as do not enter and wrong way signs can also use red coloring. Other examples of road signs using red include no u-turn signs, no turn on red signs, and sometimes no parking signs.
Green – Green road signs are direction signs. This color is used for things like street signs (the names of streets), exit signs, mile markers, and signs showing you directions to a certain city or the distance to a specific place.
Blue – Signs that are blue in color are not regulatory signs. Instead, they display services for travelers. These signs are normally found on expressways and highways, directing motorists to where they can find places such as rest areas, tourist sites, hospitals, hotels, gas stations, restaurants, campgrounds, picnic areas, and other services commonly used by motorists.
Yellow – Yellow road signs are general warning signs to indicate potential hazards or changing road conditions ahead. For example, road signs that use the color Yellow may warn you that there is a narrow bridge ahead, a railroad crossing, a no-passing zone, curves in the roadway, a merge point, pedestrian crossing, a ■■■■-end, an uneven surface, a hidden cross street, or any other number of potential hazards.
Fluorescent Yellow/Green – This color is relatively new on our roadways, but it is used for signs relating to pedestrians, bicycles, and school warning signs. They are increasingly being used for some constructions signs as well. This color is used because it is easier to see during foggy or rainy weather.
Orange – Orange road signs are usually temporary signs relating to road work, temporary traffic control, and maintenance warnings. When you see orange road signs, be sure to watch for workers on or near the roadway.
Brown – Similar to blue road signs, brown signs are not regulatory signs. These signs indicate areas of recreation and cultural points of interest. Brown road signs will mark or give directions towards historical sites, parks, picnic areas, and other recreational areas.
Similar to different road sign colors, you can also tell what a road sign means by looking at its shape. Here are the standard shapes of road signs, along with what they mean:
Octagon – A road sign in the shape of an octagon will always be a stop sign. Come to a full stop at an intersection controlled by this sign. Stop at the marked stop line or before entering the crosswalk or before your vehicle enters the intersection. Let other vehicles or pedestrians pass if they are in your path.
Equilateral Triangle – This sign shape is used for yield signs. Yield the right of way. Slow down and let vehicles crossing your path go by. If necessary, stop before going ahead. If pedestrians are in or about to enter the crosswalk, stop until they have crossed the roadway, then proceed.
Pennant – This sign will be on the left-hand side of the road or highway. It warns you of a no-passing zone.
Diamond – Diamond shaped signs are used as warning signs. These signs alert you to special road hazards. Words or pictures on the sign will show you why you need to slow down or use extra caution.
Rectangle – These will be regulatory or guide signs. Vertical signs indicate what you should or should not do, such as speed limit signs. Horizontal signs give directions or information about services drivers may want.
Pentagon – A road sign in the shape of a pentagon will refer to a school crossing or school zone. The color of the sign may be yellow or florescent yellow/green.
Crossbuck – All railroad crossing signs are this shape and are placed at each crossing. Sometimes there is a number under the crossbuck that will show you how many tracks there are.
Circle – This sign shape indicates a railroad crossing is ahead.
Sign B2b is a red circle with a red inverted triangle with either a white or yellow background, or a black or dark blue stop legend. The Convention allows for the word “STOP” to be in either English or the national language of the particular country.
While the stop sign’s shape has remained the same since the 1920s, it wasn’t always red like the one we see today. Multiple revisions were made, but it wasn’t until 1954 that the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices mandated all stop signs be red and octagonal.
William Phelps Eno
“Not only were the streets in those days completely disgusting and filthy, but there were horses and bicycles, and it was just completely chaotic,” says Joshua Schank, C.E.O. of the Eno Transportation Foundation, whose namesake and founder, William Phelps Eno, is widely credited with conceiving the stop sign
Although you can buy street signs, parking signs, or traffic signs online, the city or town or state you live in have laws against you hanging up signs on public property or government property like stop signs, lamp posts, and other public, street posts.
Stop signs are stop signs, regardless of whether or not they have a white border. For those wondering, optional stop signs do exist — they’re called “Yield” signs. However, the real secret is that the word “gullible” isn’t even in the dictionary.
Every stop sign installed for speed control is illegal. Every stop sign installed for traffic calming is illegal. Every all-way stop at a low volume intersection is illegal. … The intersection would need to be twice as busy as it is now before the city would have the legal option to consider all-way stop signs
The WRONG WAY sign may accompany the DO NOT ENTER sign. This rectangular red and white sign is a traffic regulatory sign. If you see one or both of these signs, drive to the side and stop; you are going against traffic. When safe, back out or turn around and go back to the road you were on.
This Is Why Japan Has Blue Traffic Lights Instead of Green | Reader’s Digest.
A STOP sign with three black dots is only seen at traffic lights. It means that if the lights are not working or are flashing yellow and you are approaching this sign, you must stop and give way to traffic as though you are at an intersection with stop signs.
A warning sign is a type of sign which indicates a potential hazard, obstacle, or condition requiring special attention. Some are traffic signs that indicate hazards on roads that may not be readily apparent to a driver.
A stop sign is a regulatory sign - a traffic control device that warns drivers to slow down and prepare to stop. It’s used when there are no other cars around, or at the end of a line of traffic. Drivers must stop at the stop line, crosswalk, or intersection, whichever they encounter first.