Written by Gregory Monte.
I will keep this post short and to the point because detailed commentary is unnecessary. The only reason I am even spending the time at all is because I didn’t find a web site that properly answered this question.
I did find one related article entitled Are Stop Signs with White Borders Optional? which touches on this issue:
“Stop signs are stop signs, regardless of whether or not they have a white border. Anything you’ve heard to the contrary is either rumor or a joke someone else is getting a good laugh out of.”
Unfortunately, because there was no discussion of the actual law related to traffic control devices, it is not clear if a stop sign WITHOUT a white border is enforceable.
To answer this question, you have to go to the Federal Manual on Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) which all states adopted several years ago. This document is very specific when it comes to stop signs. Section 2B.05 STOP Sign (R1-1) and ALL WAY Plaque (R1-3P) makes clear that the white border is part of what makes a stop sign official and enforceable:
“The STOP sign shall be an octagon with a white legend and border on a red background.”
Because a stop sign “shall be an octagon with a white legend and border,” a completely red sign isn’t technically a stop sign. This sounds completely crazy, but it is true and it has legal consequences.
I have written on numerous occasions that the only sure-fire way to beat a traffic ticket is to find a technicality in the law that a judge has to accept. The present issue is a clear example of this rule. My contention is that if you get a ticket at a stop sign with no white border you can fight it and win.
The MUTCD Matters And It Can Be Used to Beat Your Ticket
I don’t just claim this as an opinion. My son actually beat his stop sign ticket based on two technicalities specified in the MUTCD. I give the basics below, but you can read all of the details about this in my 23-page eBook: How My Son Beat His Unfair Stop Sign Ticket in Pennsylvania.
First of all, the sign that my son was accused of not stopping at was never properly authorized by the town which installed it. This is in clear violation of the MUTCD:
“Traffic control devices, advertisements, announcements, and other signs or messages within the highway right-of-way shall be placed only as authorized by a public authority …“
Secondly, it wasn’t properly placed. At the time of the citation, the sign was 10 feet from the intersection and then later it was moved 5 feet closer.
As you can see in the section quoted below, the distance away from the intersection matters.
“The STOP or YIELD sign shall be located as close as practical to the intersection it regulates, while optimizing its visibility to the road user it is intended to regulate.”
Obviously, if the town was able to move the sign closer to the intersection then it was not as “close as practical” in the original position.
The judge at the local level (Magisterial Court in Pennsylvania) didn’t have a clue about the MUTCD and so my son didn’t receive any justice there. On appeal, however, the judge at the Court of Common Pleas realized the legitimacy of his point and found him not guilty.
Again, if you want to read all the details about this saga (and learn how to possibly beat your traffic ticket), you can order my 23-page eBook How My Son Beat an Unfair Stop Sign Ticket in Pennsylvania.