Safety Factors Relating to "Children at Play"

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The City of Santa Clarita receives many requests each month regarding the application of various traffic-control devices to address traffic safety issues throughout the City. These requests include new crosswalks, stop signs, and special signing near schools.

The Traffic Engineering Division often receives requests to install signs warning motorists of the possible presence of children at play. Many people believe that these signs enhance the children's safety, but may not realize that there are many safety concerns about the use of these signs.

CONFUSING MESSAGE

"CHILDREN AT PLAY" signs convey a confusing message to motorists and children. Motorists are generally familiar with the residential street characteristics, including the presence of children in residential areas. These signs tend to convey the message to the motorist that children are present only where signs are installed; however, children cross residential streets at many locations. Studies show that devices attempting to warn motorists of normal conditions that are not always present fail to achieve the desired safety benefits.

WRONG MESSAGEplay

"CHILDREN AT PLAY" signs send a wrong message to children by encouraging them to play within the streets' travelways. This behavior should be discouraged by parents, as the children's interaction with automobiles could result in severe traffic safety consequences.

MISTAKEN BELIEF

"CHILDREN AT PLAY" signs also tend to create a false belief for children by letting them assume they are safer where signs are installed. Such signs have been proven to be ineffective in providing added protection for children, and the signs' presence could negatively affect the children's safety on our streets.

Some people believe that "CHILDREN AT PLAY" signs and similar signs, such as "SLOW" or "SLOW - ENTERING RESIDENTIAL AREA," help reduce the speed. However, there is no evidence that these signs prevent accidents or reduce the speed of vehicles. Special speed enforcement has proven to be the most effective method of reducing vehicle speed.

CITY POLICY ON "CHILDREN AT PLAY" SIGNS

"CHILDREN AT PLAY" signs and similar signs are not recognized by the State or by the Federal Highway Administration as official traffic control devices, and therefore, are not installed by the City on public streets.

LOWER SPEED LIMIT

Citizens frequently request less- than-25-mph speed limit signs in residential streets where children are playing. The implied speed limit on a residential street is automatically 25 mph and can be enforced. The City cannot post less-than-25-mph speed limit signs because the posting of such signs by a local government agency is considered a speed trap, making enforcement of such limits illegal.

ADDRESSING THE SAFETY OF YOUNG CHILDREN

Unnecessary signs can confuse and annoy drivers and foster disrespect for all signs. Signs in accordance with the State of California's Traffic Manual can and should be posted for school zones and pedestrian crossing, where a need exists.

Most importantly, parents should teach children the danger of playing in or near roadways and strongly discourage them from doing so. The City provides neighborhood parks where children can play safely with proper supervision. Safe playgrounds are also provided at many elementary school sites.

IF YOU HAVE ANY QUESTIONS, REQUESTS, OR SUGGESTIONS CONCERNING TRAFFIC SAFETY MATTERS, PLEASE CONTACT THE TRAFFIC ENGINEERING DIVISION AT (661) 255-4942.