Are “Children At Play” Signs Endangering Children?

Child At Play.jpgWe’ve blogged the work of Tom Vanderbilt before — most recently in our post, “Don’t Drive With A Divorced Doctor In A Pick-Up Truck On Super Bowl Sunday” — and we’re fans of his blog
Vanderbilt’s latest is a thought-provoking Slate essay entitled “Little, Yellow, Dangerous: Children At Play Signs Endanger Our Kids.” As Vanderbilt writes, such signs are generally despised by traffic engineers. They take drivers’ attention away from the roadway and – potentially – away from children who might dart into the street. Moreover, much like a “Roadway Freezes” sign in summer, “Children At Play” signage conditions drivers to ignore its warning every time a driver travels through a neighborhood and sees no playing children. Traffic engineers have codified their disdain for “Child At Play” signs in their professional bible — The National Cooperative Highway Research Program — which forbids “Children At Play” signs.
In addition to being ineffective, “Children At Play” signs are also dangerous because they distract us from the hard work that we need to be doing to actually improve safety for pedestrians. Thinking in terms of “Children At Play” warnings or other signage makes us think that the there are quick-fixes for livable roadways.
Really improving the safety of children at play requires a serious reengineering of neighborhood streets. Having a 35 mph posted speed limit is not compatible with children’s safety, as accidents at that speed are very likely to cause a child’s death.
Besides, drivers take their cues not from roadway signage but from the conditions they see with their own eyes. When a highway speed limit is 65 mph, drivers slow down if it’s heavy snow. Likewise, when drivers see a roadway marked with a double yellow line, they feel it’s appropriate to go fast even if it’s a residential neighborhood.
Protecting children from cars requires a lot more than signs. It involves changing the subtle cues that make drivers think it’s OK to speed.

This blog in maintained by the Boston car accident lawyers at The Law Office of Alan H. Crede, P.C.