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Stop sign
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Stop sign

A stop sign is a traffic sign found all over the world that informs drivers to make a brief and temporary stop once approaching it, then proceed if the way is clear.

Stop signs are most commonly found at intersectionss and crosswalks, and prevent collisions by creating a timed, sequenced flow of traffic. Laws determining the right of way at intersections with stop signs vary, but generally drivers who stop first continue first. An intersection may have anywhere from no stop signs at all to a stop sign for every incoming direction; directions with no stop signs have the right of way, and those with stop signs must yield to them. If two drivers stop simultaneously at stop signs at a single intersection, the rule in the United States is that the car on the right-hand side, or the most counterclockwise, has the right of way.

Stop signs are not generally required at any intersection, but help to control traffic at some relatively quiet but dangerous or important intersections; they are often found in places children play. An intersection that becomes too busy for a stop sign usually uses either traffic lights or, especially in Europe, a roundabout instead.

Some stop signs are augmented with additional information indicating the reason to stop (such as "THRU HIGHWAY") or a four-way stop.


Stop signs originated in Detroit, Michigan in 1915. The first had black letters on a white background and was somewhat smaller than the modern one. As they became more widespread, a committee supported by AASHO met in 1922 to standardize them, and it selected the octagonal shape that has been used ever since.

The unique eight-sided shape of the sign allows drivers facing the back of the sign to identify that oncoming drivers have a stop sign and prevent confusion with other traffic signs.

In 1924, the sign changed to black on yellow, the predominant color until 1954. Another competing group, the NCSHS, simultaneously advocated an even smaller, red-on-yellow stop sign. All of these signs were typically mounted only two or three feet above the ground.

These two organizations conflicted but eventually combined into the Joint Committee on Uniform Traffic Control Devices, which in 1935 published the famous Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices for Streets and Highways (MUTCD) detailing the stop sign's appearance. The MUTCD stop sign was altered eight times between 1935 and 1971, mostly dealing with its reflectorization and its mounting height; the most drastic change came in 1954, when the sign gained its white-on-red color. Red is also the color for stop on traffic signals, unifying red as stop signal for drivers worldwide.

The mounting height reached its current level of seven feet in 1971. Although already widespread, use of the MUTCD stop sign passed into law in the United States in 1966. They were later adopted by the European Union as part of their effort to standardize road travel across member countries.

Stop signs worldwide

Although English-speaking and European Union countries use the original word "STOP" on stop signs, most countries, and sometimes even smaller political districts, prefer to use a roughly equivalent word in their primary language instead; its appearance is otherwise the same. Although the word used isn't universally standardized, some commonly seen examples are:

Word Language Countries Where Used
STOP English United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, European Union countries such as France and Spain and elsewhere
ARRÊT French Parts of Canada such as Quebec and airports
ALTO Spanish Mexico and elsewhere
PARE Spanish Dominican Republic
CTOП Russian Russia
DUR Turkish Turkey
SETEN Huron In parts of Canada with Wyandot people

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