SHERIFF'S CORNER: "Here's your sign"

Signs, signs ... everywhere is signs.

You see them all over the place, but did you know there is a national code that generally has to be followed by all municipalities when erecting signs on state and federal highways? In Michigan, the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) has adopted this standard.

This standard also has to be somewhat followed on local roads, but not always. Trust me, I know this first hand when we attempted to put a large advisory ORV speed limit sign on each end of U.S.-10 and M-37 (to notify visitors the speed limit of "open" ORV county roads), then was later told by MDOT that we had to take them down because they were not the correct shape and color.

As this may have not been applicable on those highways, we were able to use them on the county roads. I will tell you that we have seen a dramatic decrease in the speed of ORV's since the implementation of this new high-visible ORV sign.

Seems like signs have been a thing for me lately. With the development of the above sign, the new Williams Island signs and then recently I had to put up my own signs. My address is in on one road, but my driveway is off of another. As I got tired of many new FedEx and UPS driver's delivering my packages to the neighbors on the hill, I had to install a string of green arrow signs to direct people to my house. Haven't had an issue since. LOL

I am also currently working with state Senator Curt VanderWall on establishing the entire length of "Old M-63" as a historic county route from Peacock Township through Luther to the Bristol area in hopes to sign it with gold/blue hexagon county route markers. This is in the very early stages, and we are hoping it may one day be a reality.

In this edition of the "Sheriff's Corner," I discuss the regulation of street and highway signs.


Traffic signs have been in use since the Roman Empire. By building a system of roads, tunnels and bridges from Portugal to Constantinople, the Romans were able to move armies faster and bring in more people and goods. In other words, a strong road system helped Rome thrive.

The first road was the Via Appia, or the Appian Way, built in 312 B.C. Milestones were placed at regular intervals and often stated who was in charge of maintaining that portion of the road as well as the completed repairs. The Romans also erected mile markers at intersections specifying the distance to Rome.

The first modern road signs erected on a large scale were designed for riders of bicycles in the late 1870s and early 1880s. These bicycles were fast, silent and their construction made them difficult to control. Also, riders travelled longer distances and often preferred to tour on unfamiliar roads, hence the need for signage.

In 1915, Detroit installed the first stop sign, which was a 2-by-2-foot sheet of metal, with black lettering on a white background.

Fun Fact: The first traffic signal was designed by a railroad signal engineer, J.P. Knight and was installed outside the houses of the British Parliament in 1868. It had semaphore arms like any railroad signal at the time and red-green lamps fueled by gas, but after it exploded and killed a police officer, further development was discouraged.

Did you know that Lake County is one of the only counties that does not have a traffic signal?


With its first printing in 1935, The Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices for Streets and Highways (usually referred to as the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices) is a document issued by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) of the United States Department of Transportation (USDOT) to specify the standards by which traffic signs, road surface markings, and signals are designed, installed, and used.

As in the "imperial" system of measurement compared to the "metric" system, the U.S. adopted its own proprietary system relating to signage and traffic control devices. Most other countries follow the Vienna Convention on Road Signs and Signals.


Signs convey information to travelers not only by their messages and color, but through their shape as well. Special shapes are specifically assigned to certain types of signs so that travelers can recognize them quickly and react appropriately.

Here are some examples of shapes:

• Circle — Exclusively for railroad crossing advance warning signs

• Octagon — Exclusively for stop signs

• Triangle (equilateral, point down) — Exclusively for yield signs

• Crossbuck (Big "X") — Exclusively for railroad grade crossing signs

• Pennant (Isosceles triangle, point to right) — Exclusively for no passing zone signs

• Diamond (four equal sides) — Warning signs either permanent or temporary

• Square — To show some care needs to be taken occasionally

• Rectangle (usually white, longer dimension vertical) — Used for regulatory signs as in "speed limit" or "no parking"

• Rectangle (usually green, longer dimension horizontal) — Used for guide signs, some warning signs, and some temporary traffic control signs such as in "exit signs" or "city Limits"

• Trapezoid — National Forest route marker signs, as well as some recreational areas and guide signs

• Pentagon — School advance warning signs

Here are some examples of colors:

• Red — Used to stop, yield and prohibition

• White background — regulatory sign

• Yellow — general warning message

• Green — permitted traffic movement and directional guidance

• Fluorescent yellow or green — School or pedestrian crossings

• Orange — Warnings and guidance in construction zones

• Blue — Road service, tourist information or evacuation routes

• Brown — Guidance to recreational or cultural interest sites


Uncontrolled Intersection: If you have ever been to Luther, you will notice that there are many intersections in town that have no signs. When this is the case, you generally treat them as yield intersections where you follow the right-of-way rules.

Right-of-way Rules: This is the same as when you approach a four-way intersection or waiting for someone to turn in a two-way intersection or whenever there is someone else at any intersection.

There are five right-of-way rules:

• The vehicle that arrived first has the right-of-way.

• If two or more vehicles arrive at roughly the same time, drivers on the left must yield to drivers on the right.

• If you are turning left, yield to oncoming traffic even if you arrived first.

• Yield to traffic and pedestrians already in or about to enter the intersection.

• If both you and an oncoming vehicle are turning left, you can turn without yielding by passing in front of each other.

Speed Limits: In short, when there are no speed limit signs in municipal residential areas the speed limit is usually 25 mph. When in outlying or county roads with no sign, the speed limit is usually 55 mph.

— This information is provided to you for clarification on specific laws, and not legal advice. This is not to be construed as a personal opinion, agreement or disagreement of any specific law. Topics covered are for educational and informational purposes only. As needed, excerpts from other articles are used for reference and/or content. If you have any questions on any specific topic, you may always email me your questions to