Can I use an “Autistic Child” warning sign in New York?

Autistic Child sign

No. Such a sign is not approved for use in New York State.

The use of “Autistic Child” warning signs is not allowed in New York.There are no signs for “Autistic Child” in the MUTCD or the New York State Supplement.Unlike blind or hearing impaired children, autistic children behave in a variety of ways and a driver encountering such a warning sign would not know what behavior to look for or what they may be required to do differently from their normal careful driving.

Parents and politicians often believe that the addition of a warning sign will somehow make the children who live along a road “safer”. The reality of warning signs that warn of things other than actual static conditions (curves, hills, low clearance, etc) is that they are largely ignored by drivers of all types and ages. Drivers on roads that have obvious residential development (cities, villages, suburbs) should expect to see children and other pedestrians and adjust their driving behavior accordingly; a sign is unnecessary to inform a driver that there may be children living in the houses that are in plain sight. The installation of unnecessary signs in residential areas can distract a driver, directing their attention to the sign instead of activity in the yard adjacent to the sign. Children who are not able to understand the dangers of traffic for whatever reason should not be allowed to play near a road unsupervised, regardless of the reason for their inability to perceive the danger. Children should not be using public roads as playgrounds regardless of their ability to understand the dangers of traffic. There is also the possibility of a predator seeing such a sign and watching for a child that is vulnerable.

The installation of a sign that purports to somehow protect a certain group of people (in this case, autistic children) can open a municipality to liability.

The New York State Vehicle and Traffic Law Title 8, Article 44, Section 1680(c), requires the any traffic control device purchased/manufactured or used on a public road in the State conform to the current manual and specifications (National MUTCD with the NYS Supplement). The legal responsibility for maintaining the NYS Supplement is assigned to NYSDOT by VTL Section 1680(a). These are requirements and responsibilities imposed on NYSDOT by State Law and they cannot be over ruled by a local law or resolution. If a text sign is desired that is not in the National MUTCD or NYS Supplement, it must be approved by NYSDOT prior to its implementation as per Section 1A.03 Design of Traffic Control Devices paragraph 03B of the NYS Supplement:

Standard

03B Any change to a word message sign that can be considered more than a minor modification (see next Option) shall be approved by the New York State Department of Transportation before it is implemented.

Resources

NYS Vehicle and Traffic Law, Title 8, Article 44, Section 1680, 2012. (V&T Law can be found under “Laws of New York” and then under “VAT” Once in there you would go to Article 44 and Section 1680 from there.)

The National MUTCD and NYS Supplement on the NYSDOT website

Autism Support Network

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This work by the Cornell Local Roads Program (CLRP) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.