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For 99 Years Drivers Have Been Kept Safe by the Stop Sign

STOP sign on the side of an empty road to illustrate how for 99 years drivers have been kept safe by the stop sign

Every driver knows – run a stop sign in front of a cop – and, you’re getting a ticket. But, did you know that the stop sign has been in existence and saving lives for 99 years? That’s how long drivers have been kept safe at intersections across the country. And, auto insurance companies have been raising premiums for running one for quite some time now as well.

The history of the stop sign goes back to 1915. According to early records, the first ones were posted appropriately in Michigan – the birthplace of the American automobile industry. However, originally, they were not octagonal in design. The first stop signs were actually 24 by 24 inch squares which featured black letters on a white background. Since there weren’t many cars on the nation’s roads back then, the plain signs were more than adequate. But, with the 1920s, came mass production of affordable cars, and the sudden increase forced the American Association of State Highway Officials (AASHO) to rethink the shape and size of the sign.

It was decided that the United States would standardize all stop signs on its streets, roads, and highways to the octagonal shape we’re familiar with today. According to the AASHO, the octagonal shape was chosen because it presented several key advantages with its unique design. First, is the fact that the octagon makes it easier for drivers traveling in the opposite direction to spot and recognize a stop sign from the back, reducing confusion at intersections. And, because the early signs were non-reflective, the AASHO also wanted to come up with something that would be easily recognized at night.

Modern stop signs are retro-reflective. In other words, when you approach a stop sign at night and shine you’re your headlights on it…light will automatically be reflected back at you.

It’s hard to believe, but while the shape of the stop sign has remained constant since the change to the octagon in the 1920s, it wasn’t always red. There have been multiple revisions through the years. As a matter of fact, until the mid-1950s, the nation’s stop signs generally featured black letters and a black outline over a yellow background. Finally, in 1954, the sign got another makeover and a new color scheme, leading to its current look. This time, it was a red background with white lettering and a white outline.

Although it took nearly 40 years, logic finally won out. It was determined that since all stop lights are red, it only made sense to change the sign’s color to red also, therefore, reinforcing the simple idea that red should universally mean “stop”.

Standing approximately 7 feet off the ground, today’s stop sign measures around 29.5 inches across from one flat side of the red octagon to the other. The white border is a hair over three quarters of an inch wide, while the word STOP is written in capital letters that are approximately 10 inches tall. And, all stop signs are also retro-reflective. On roads that have more than one lane, stop signs are slightly larger, measuring about 37 inches wide.

Most countries have adopted the standard red octagonal shape. Though the languages may be different – the message is the same – STOP!

In any language, saving money makes sense. Check to see that you’re getting the best rate on your car insurance. Why not get a free car insurance quote today?

Do you think the design of the stop sign can be improved?  Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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