CHASKA, Minn. (AP) — Drivers across Minnesota are seeing fewer traffic signs such as "Deer Crossing" and "Slow, Children at Play," because officials say there's no evidence the signs make much of a difference.
Officials in Carver County say the signs don't cause drivers to slow down, and could give parents a false sense of security. So the county has begun following the state's example in phasing the signs out, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported (http://bit.ly/1fsxAYI ).
"The signs that are out there need to be useful," said Kate Miner, the county's traffic engineer. "If we clutter our roadways with signs, it just kind of all becomes background noise after a while."
Other signs that will disappear include warnings about hidden driveways, blind approaches and tractor crossings.
The move is consistent with advice that that Minnesota Department of Transportation published in a guide in 2010. The handbook noted that drivers routinely ignore signs that warn of infrequent conditions, such as deer crossings and the danger of falling rocks.
MnDOT has been removing deer-crossing signs from state highways since 2005. The agency observed that the signs didn't reduce deer-vehicle crashes or prompt drivers to slow down, said MnDOT state signing engineer Heather Lott. She said the same was true for "Children at Play" signs.
"Use of the signs in some areas would give the false impression that areas without signs do not have children and deer," Lott said.
Not every state agency agrees with the policy. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources issued its annual safety reminder this month advising drivers to "look for deer-crossing signs that are posted in high-risk areas" to avoid collisions.
Roger Tietz, an operations support manager for the DNR's enforcement division, said it's tricky to draw conclusions about whether deer-crossing signs are effective.
"What you can't measure very easily is the person that read the sign and heeded the advice," he said.
Carver County also plans to remove signs that do little to inform drivers, such as a "Signal Ahead" sign warning drivers about upcoming intersections that are already noticeable.
Each road sign costs about $200 and lasts for 15 years. The county will save a modest amount of money in replacement costs, although budget savings are only a secondary concern behind safety, Miner said.
"We need to be sure that signs that are out there and that we do need aren't being overridden by the signs that we don't need," she said.
Information from: Star Tribune, http://www.startribune.com