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  1. #1
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    Apr 2010
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    Default Failure to Stop at Stop Sign: Oregon Statutes, Sec. 811.265

    My question involves a traffic ticket from the state of: Oregon

    I was pulled over for failure to stop at a stop sign. I did indeed miss the sign - but didn't realize it till the officer showed me the video. I went back to look at the sign to see how I could have missed it and it just seems to be posted very low.

    Using my own height as a gauge (I am right about 6'1") - the top of my head hits the middle of the sign, so am guessing the bottom of the sign is about 5 feet from the ground.

    In my online search, I found the MUTCD (manual on uniform traffic control devices) which seems to regulate sign size, placement, etc. It says that in residential/business areas (which this clearly was), the bottom of the sign needs to be 6 feet from the ground. Can anyone help me understand if A) the MUTCD is the right regulation to be looking at and B) if this is usable defense of the ticket?

    Thanks

  2. #2

    Default Re: Failure to Stop at Stop Sign: Oregon Statutes, Sec. 811.265

    In order to save space (yeah, I know it's long anyway), I have copied the most pertinent sections of the applicable codes. You may wish to look at the full language of the codes which are available online. (All emphasis below is mine.)

    You were charged with:
    811.265 Failure to obey traffic control device; penalty. (1) A person commits the offense of driver failure to obey traffic control device if the person drives a vehicle and the person does any of the following:

    (a) Fails to obey the directions of any traffic control device.

    (b) Fails to obey any specific traffic control device described in ORS 811.260 in the manner required by that section.
    ORS 811.260 says:
    811.260 Appropriate driver responses to traffic control devices. This section establishes appropriate driver responses to specific traffic control devices for purposes of ORS 811.265. Authority to place traffic control devices is established under ORS 810.210. Except when acting under the direction of a police officer that contradicts this section, a driver is in violation of ORS 811.265 if the driver makes a response to traffic control devices that is not permitted under the following:

    (11) Stop signs. A driver approaching a stop sign shall stop at a clearly marked stop line, but if none, before entering the crosswalk on the near side of the intersection or, if none, then at the point nearest the intersecting roadway where the driver has a view of approaching traffic on the intersecting roadway before entering it.
    ORS 810.210 says:
    810.210 Placement and control of traffic control devices. (1) The Oregon Transportation Commission is vested with exclusive jurisdiction over the installation at railroad-highway grade crossings of signs, signals, gates, protective devices or any other device to warn or protect the public at a railroad-highway crossing. The commission is granted exclusive authority under this subsection to determine the character or type of device to be used.

    (2) Each road authority shall place, maintain and control traffic control devices used upon its own highway as the road authority considers necessary for the safe and expeditious control of traffic, necessary to carry out the provisions of the vehicle code or local traffic ordinances or necessary to regulate, warn or guide traffic. The commission shall act as road authority under this section in lieu of the Department of Transportation. The authority granted under this subsection is subject to all of the following:

    (a) All traffic control devices erected and used under this subsection shall conform to the state manual and specifications established under ORS 810.200.

    (c) Only the commission has authority over a state highway whether or not the state highway is within the jurisdiction of another road authority. No traffic control device shall be erected, maintained or operated upon any state highway under this subsection by any authority other than the commission, except with the written approval of the commission.
    .
    ORS 810.200 says:
    810.200 Uniform standards for traffic control devices; uniform system of marking and signing highways. (1) The Oregon Transportation Commission may exercise the following authority with respect to the marking, signing and use of traffic control devices in this state:

    (a) The commission shall adopt a manual and specifications of uniform standards for traffic control devices consistent with the provisions of the vehicle code for use upon highways in this state.

    (2) The authority granted under this section is subject to all of the following:

    (c) All traffic control devices placed or operated in this state shall conform to specifications approved by the commission.

    Under the Oregon Administrative Rules #734-020-0005, the 2003 Edition of Federal MUTCD and the Oregon Supplement to the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices dated July 2005 have been adopted as the specifications of uniform standards for traffic control devices for use upon highways within the state.
    The Oregon Administrative Rules
    734-020-0005
    Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices

    (1) In accordance with ORS 810.200, the 2003 Edition of the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices with Revision no. 1 Incorporated, dated November 2004 (U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration) is hereby adopted by reference as the manual and specifications of uniform standards for traffic control devices for use upon highways within this state.

    (2) The Oregon Supplement to the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices dated July 2005 is hereby adopted by reference as a register of deviations to the 2003 Edition of the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices.
    Therefore it would appear that if the sign does not comply with the either the 2003 Edition of the federal Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices or The Oregon Supplement, then whichever road authority placed the sign did not have authority to do so and it is therefore unenforceable.

    Also note, that there is a further requirement that if this is a state highway (you have to check the official designation to be sure) and if anyone other than the Oregon Transportation Commission placed the sign, they would have had to get approval from the OTC (see 810.210 (c) above). If this was not done properly, that would be a further point in your favor that the sign was not legally placed and not enforceable.

    Note also that there is an exception in the code for signs placed before June 27, 1975, so in the hugely unlikely case that this sign was placed before that date (and has never been replaced) then the above restrictions might not apply.

    Hope this helps.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Failure to Stop at Stop Sign: Oregon Statutes, Sec. 811.265

    Quote Quoting freedomminute
    View Post
    Therefore it would appear that if the sign does not comply with the either the 2003 Edition of the federal Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices or The Oregon Supplement, then whichever road authority placed the sign did not have authority to do so and it is therefore unenforceable.
    Just because the sign is a foot or so short does not mean that the Traffic and Engineering entity placing it there did not have the authority to do so.

    More often than not, the guidelines set in the MUTCD are not strictly followed based on engineering decisions that are predicated upon a number of different factors.

    In other words, and to somehow be able to justify your argument that the sign was too short and therefore you could not see it, you may need to show that something blocked your view with it being at a less than ideal level. Simply blowing past it because it was a foot too short might not cut it for you. Just my opinion.

  4. #4

    Default Re: Failure to Stop at Stop Sign: Oregon Statutes, Sec. 811.265

    In order to explain my reasoning above and further the conversation, I offer the following:
    (Underlining added for clarity and emphasis)

    Quote Quoting From the Introduction to the 2003 Oregon Supplement to the MUTCD:
    Traffic control devices installed on highways within the State of Oregon are required to conform to the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD), published by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). The list of highways that are required to conform to the MUTCD includes all state highways and public roadways under the jurisdiction of cities and counties within the State of Oregon. This requirement is established by Oregon Revised Statute (ORS) (see ORS 810.200) and Oregon Administrative Rule (OAR) (see OAR 734-020-0005).

    Quote Quoting From the Introduction to the 2003 Federal MUTCD:
    Throughout this Manual the headings Standard, Guidance, Option, and Support are used to classify the nature of the text that follows. Figures, tables, and illustrations supplement the text and might constitute a Standard, Guidance, Option, or Support. The user needs to refer to the appropriate text to classify the nature of the figure, table, or illustration.

    Standard:
    When used in this Manual, the text headings shall be defined as follows:
    1. Standard—a statement of required, mandatory, or specifically prohibitive practice regarding a traffic control device. All standards are labeled, and the text appears in bold type. The verb shall is typically used. Standards are sometimes modified by Options.

    2. Guidance—a statement of recommended, but not mandatory, practice in typical situations, with deviations allowed if engineering judgment or engineering study indicates the deviation to be appropriate. All Guidance statements are labeled, and the text appears in unbold type. The verb should is typically used. Guidance statements are sometimes modified by Options.

    3. Option—a statement of practice that is a permissive condition and carries no requirement or recommendation. Options may contain allowable modifications to a Standard or Guidance. All Option statements are labeled, and the text appears in unbold type. The verb may is typically used.

    4. Support—an informational statement that does not convey any degree of mandate, recommendation, authorization, prohibition, or enforceable condition. Support statements are labeled, and the text appears in unbold type. The verbs shall, should, and may are not used in Support statements.

    Quote Quoting From Chapter 2A. of the 2003 Federal MUTCD (discussing signs):

    Section 2A.18 Mounting Height

    Support:
    The provisions of this Section apply unless specifically stated otherwise for a particular sign elsewhere in this Manual.

    Standard:
    Signs installed at the side of the road in rural districts shall be at least 1.5 m (5 ft), measured from the bottom of the sign to the near edge of the pavement.

    Where parking or pedestrian movements occur, the clearance to the bottom of the sign shall be at least 2.1 m (7 ft). …

    If a secondary sign is mounted below another sign, the major sign shall be installed at least 2.4 m (8 ft) and the secondary sign at least 1.5 m (5 ft) above the level of the pavement edge.

    Option:
    The height to the bottom of a secondary sign mounted below another sign may be 0.3 m (1 ft) less than the height specified above.

    Where signs are placed 9 m (30 ft) or more from the edge of the traveled way, the height to the bottom of such signs may be 1.5 m (5 ft) above the level of the pavement edge.

    The mounting height may be adjusted when supports are located near the edge of the right-of-way on a steep backslope.

    Since the Oregon Supplement states that traffic control devices are required to conform to the MUTCD, and the MUTCD also states that a "Standard" is a requirement and will be in bold type, and the section of the MUTCD specifying the height of regulatory signs is both labeled as a “Standard” and is in bold type, this leads me to conclude that the height requirement is mandatory rather than a guideline. I suppose that another interpretation is possible or perhaps Oregon case law has spoken to this?

    I also found the following in the Oregon Statutes

    810.250 Use of traffic control device placement or legibility as evidence.
    (1) A person shall not be convicted of violating a provision of the vehicle code for which an official traffic control device is required if the device is not in proper position and legible to a reasonably observant person at the time and place of the alleged violation.

    (3) When a traffic control device is placed in position approximately conforming to the requirements of the traffic regulations or other laws of this state, the device is presumed to have been placed by an official act or at the direction of lawful authority unless the contrary is established by competent evidence.

    (4) A traffic control device placed under the vehicle code or other laws or regulations of this state and purporting to conform to the lawful requirements pertaining to that device is presumed to comply with the requirements of the vehicle code unless the contrary is established by competent evidence.
    Again, my plain language interpretation is as follows:

    The use of the word “and” in Subsection (1) denotes that both conditions must be met (in proper position and legible to a reasonably observant person…) for a person to be convicted of violating a provision of the vehicle code for which an official traffic control device is required. If one of those conditions is not met, the traffic control device fails the test and a person cannot (at least in theory) be convicted. Proper height is a condition of proper position. Improper height = improper position = cannot be convicted. It doesn’t seem that there is a requirement for a defendant to show that they couldn’t read the sign or that it was blocked in some way since they are basing their defense on improper position (a statutory requirement), and not whether or not it was legible.

    As to subsections (3) & (4), I interpret this to mean that it is the defendant’s burden to show by competent evidence that the sign does not conform to the requirements, otherwise it will be assumed that it does conform. If the defendant proves that the sign is non-conforming, then subsection (1) would be applicable.


    Quote Quoting That Guy
    View Post
    More often than not, the guidelines set in the MUTCD are not strictly followed based on engineering decisions that are predicated upon a number of different factors.

    Even if true that engineering decisions would allow the sign to be non-conforming, once the defendant shows that the sign did not meet the requirements, wouldn’t it then be incumbent upon the prosecution to show that any deviation was due to proper engineering requirements? I doubt that the prosecution would be prepared to show this, especially if they had no prior notice that the defense would be using this argument.


    Thoughts?

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