An often heard neighborhood request concerns the posting of generalized warning signs with "CHILDREN AT PLAY", "SLOW CHILDREN" or other similar messages. Parental concern for the safety of children in the streets near home, and a misplaced but wide-spread public faith in ability of traffic signs providing protection, often prompt these requests.
At first consideration, it might seem that "CHILDREN AT PLAY" type signs would provide protection for youngsters playing in a neighborhood. However, studies have generally shown that many types of signs attempting to warn of normal conditions in residential areas have failed to achieve the desired safety benefits. Studies made in cities where such signs were widely posted in residential areas showed no evidence of having reduced pedestrian accidents, vehicular speeds, or legal liability.
Children at Play signs have little effect on driver behavior, which is seldom the cause of accidents. An NCHRP study reported that nearly 80 percent of collisions including children resulted from an unsafe or illegal act by the child. The study concluded that no traffic control device could be expected to protect a child.
The signs give parents and children a false sense of security by relying on the signs; parents might monitor their children less closely. Children might interpret the sign to mean they can play in the street. Thus, Children at Play signs can contribute to the very accidents parents seek to avoid.