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The History of the Stop Sign

Updated: March 2021

Have you ever wondered why a stop sign is red or why it's shaped like an octagon? To help keep you safe, the stop sign has evolved over the years to a design that gets your attention more easily so you can react more quickly. Here are some facts about the history of the stop sign.

Stop sign in a rural area.

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When was the first stop sign installed in the U.S.?

The first stop signs were posted in Michigan in 1915, says the Manual of Traffic Signs. Originally, they were square-shaped, measuring 2 feet by 2 feet and featured black letters on a yellow background, according to Jalopnik.

Why is the stop sign shaped like an octagon?

The American Association of State Highway Officials (AASHO) saw a few key advantages to giving the stop sign its unique shape. First, the octagonal shape makes it easy for drivers traveling in the opposite direction to recognize the sign from the back, which helps prevent confusion at intersections, according to Reader's Digest. Second, since the original stop signs weren't reflective, the AASHO needed a design that could be easily recognizable at night.

Was a stop sign always red?

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. According to Jalopnik, the National Conference on Street and Highway Safety had long wanted the stop sign to be red. But the materials to make a red pigmentation that wouldn't fade weren't readily available.

What are stop signs like today?

Today's stop sign stands approximately 7 feet off the ground in urban areas and 5 feet off the ground in rural locations, according to Cornell University. Stop signs are also retroreflective, which means that if your headlights shine on them, light will be reflected back toward you.

Safe drivers can save on car insurance

Stops signs have done a lot to prevent all kinds of hard-stopping, rear-ending and T-boning. They help drivers navigate busy intersections and encourage safe driving. Many car insurance companies reward safe driving.

If you always abide stop signs, yield to pedestrians and keep your eyes on the road, you may be less likely to get in an accident. And if you stay accident-free, you might earn one among many auto discounts. These include reduced premiums, savings on specific coverages and lowered deductibles. You may even get a discount for taking an approved safe driving course.

Some car insurance companies even offer driving apps that customize your premium based on your driving habits. Safe driving discounts differ from insurer to insurer, so call yours to find out what they offer and how to qualify.

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