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The History of Stop Signs

Stop signs are vital road safety objects. But did you know they weren’t always red and octagonal? In fact, in the early 20th century, stop signs didn’t have to be any specific color or shape at all! However, this confused drivers, so in 1922 the American Association of State Highway Officials selected a standard shape – the octagon. The idea was that it was so unique that even drivers coming from the other direction would see it and realize that the oncoming traffic had a stop sign. At this time, it was also decreed that all stop signs would be yellow with black letters in order to grab drivers’ attention. However, the officials would have preferred to use red, since it matched the “stop” signal used on electric traffic lights, which had already been in invented in 1912. The problem was that in those days, there was no red dye that wouldn’t fade over time. However, by 1954, sign makers had started using a fade-resistant porcelain enamel, so the red color fading was no longer an issue. That year, the Joint Committee on Uniform Traffic Control Devices decreed that all stop signs would be red with white letters, giving rise to the stop sign as we know it today!

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