Gotten a traffic ticket recently? Maybe it’s not your fault, maybe it’s the fault of road signs. A Burien, WA man got out of a speeding ticket because signs in the area where it happened were too wordy. Yes, as in too many words.
According to KIRO 7 News, Canfield said that signs on Delridge Way Southwest said there was a school in the vicinity, but did not warn that the speed limit drops to 20 mph ahead.
When he got to the actual speed limit sign, which is accompanied by flashers and a notice of photo enforcement, he said he found the instructions confusing because of the many messages posted on the pole. He said it took him a few moments to see the sign, react to it, then slow down. In the meantime, he got a $234 ticket.
He started researching and discovered that national standards call for only one plaque that says ‘WHEN FLASHING’. The sign in question had two — one that reads, ‘WHEN CHILDREN ARE PRESENT’ and another saying, ‘OR WHEN FLASHING.’ He fought the ticket but it was upheld in Seattle Municipal Court. Canfield appealed and a King County Superior Court judge ruled in his favor.
This time, SDOT told KIRO 7 it is still getting up to speed on what this ruling means for them. An SDOT spokesperson said Wednesday in an email, “While the department does evaluate and monitor safety programs, making adjustments when necessary to improve safety efficiency, Seattle is one hundred percent committed to our Vision Zero mission. Therefore, I can’t imagine that we will reduce efforts to keep students safe any time soon.”
SDOT said that speed cameras and their signs have been a success in reducing collisions, the main focus of Vision Zero.
Canfield said he wants students to be safe as well.
“I don’t want people speeding in school zones,” he said. He hopes SDOT will review the federal manual and see where the city could make things clearer for drivers.
“Give people an opportunity to follow the law, rather than, ‘We’ll nail you once and then you’ll know better next time,’” he said.
As for any other people who might be hoping to appeal their tickets as well, KIRO 7 discovered that municipal court judges are not bound by this one superior court ruling. That means they can rule however they want on other people’s tickets.
If people choose to appeal a ruling against them to the superior court level, they should know Canfield has already spent about $800 fighting the ticket and has not received $234 back for the ticket so far.