Emergency Stopping Only


NE2 asked: How does an “emergency stopping only” sign apply to cyclists and pedestrians? Can a shoulder user pause for a quick rest, either on the paved shoulder or adjacent grass? (This sign is used not only on freeways, but also on some surface roads, such as Nova Road in Daytona.)


Roadway signs such as Emergency Stopping Only (R8-7) must be supported by a statute, regulation or ordinance.

Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices

Section 1A.02 Principles of Traffic Control Devices

The actions required of road users to obey regulatory devices should be specified by State statute, or in cases not covered by State statute, by local ordinance or resolution. Such statutes, ordinances, and resolutions should be consistent with the “Uniform Vehicle Code” (see Section 1A.11).

This is more information about such signs from the MUTCD.

Figure 2B-25. Parking and Stopping Signs and Plaques (R8 Series)

Where parking is prohibited at all times or at specific times, the basic design for parking signs shall have a red legend and border on a white background (Parking Prohibition signs), except that the …. R8-7 signs …. shall have a black legend and border on a white background, ….

Where only limited-time parking or parking in a particular manner are permitted, the signs shall have a green legend and border on a white background (Permissive Parking signs).

Section 2B.49 Emergency Restriction Signs (R8-4, R8-7, R8-8)

01 The EMERGENCY PARKING ONLY (R8-4) sign (see Figure 2B-25) or the EMERGENCY STOPPING ONLY (R8-7) sign (see Figure 2B-25) may be used to discourage or prohibit shoulder parking, particularly where scenic or other attractions create a tendency for road users to stop temporarily.

To determine the nature and purpose of the sign, it is suggested that you ask the local authorities for the regulation that supports it and the intent regarding motorists, cyclists and pedestrians.

6 Comments on “Emergency Stopping Only

  1. I’m confused. The MUTCD says it should be supported by state law. But state law says that “The driver of any vehicle shall obey the instructions of any official traffic control device applicable thereto” and does not define the meaning of most signs and markings. In a general sense, what gives devices their meanings? Does the MUTCD have the force of law? Or are other publications, such as the FLHSMV’s Driver’s Handbook, given equal status?

    • Section 316.008, F.S., which sets forth traffic powers of local authorities, lists “Regulating or prohibiting stopping, standing, or parking” (item (a)), and section 316.1945(1)(a)10 prohibits stopping, standing or parking a vehicle “At any place where official traffic control devices prohibit stopping” (i.e., “Except when necessary to avoid conflict with other traffic”). These provisions support the use of the EMERGENCY STOPPING ONLY sign.

      The state code does not include anything to indicate, though, exactly where this sign prohibits stopping: is it prohibited just on the roadway, or also on any shoulder that might be present? S. 316.1945(1) does not further specify “place”; the section seems to assume the area to which any sign that prohibits stopping applies will be obvious and/or that the meaning of the sign is sufficiently explained in the MUTCD. The Florida Driver Handbook’s explanation of the sign is simply “Stopping permitted only for emergencies”.

      In such cases, traffic court magistrates may consult the MUTCD about the meaning of a traffic sign. Another consideration is that, if the sign referred only to the roadway, then a driver could still stop, stand or park on the shoulder, if one were present and wide enough. As most drivers who wanted to stop, stand or park would tend to use the shoulder anyway, as a courtesy to other drivers and to minimize their own risk of being rear-ended, there would be little reason to use the sign in this situation unless it did also apply to the shoulder.

      The rule in s. 316.1945(1)(a) has no application to a pedestrian, as a pedestrian has no vehicle to stop, stand or park in the first place.

  2. My understanding is that the MUTCD does have the effect of law when adopted by a state. The MUTCD is a national document that describes uniform standards for signage and markings so they will be the same and easily understood in each state. As stated, the installation of such signs or markings should be supported by statute, regulation or ordinance. In other words, a sign such as the Bicycle May Use Full Lane signs should only be used when the state statute supports that action, as does the substandard-width lane provision of the Bicycle Regulations.

    The use of the term “should” rather than “must” leaves room for interpretation. You will need to seek legal advice on that distinction.

    The statute, regulation or ordinance is the basis for the requirement to do or not do something. The sign only tells you when and where that statute, regulation or ordinance is in effect. The actions required by the statute, regulation or ordinance are required even if a traffic control device is not in place. For example, many communities have speed restrictions throughout the community except where traffic control devices indicate otherwise.

    The Driver’s Handbook is not a statute, regulation or ordinance. It is a compilation of those, and I believe does not, in itself, have the effect of law. It is similar to the traffic control device in that respect. It is not the handbook or the sign that is the law. The sign only tells us the action required by the law. The handbook tells us the laws and explains the required actions.

    In the case of the Emergency Stopping Only sign, the simple answer is that it applies to all vehicles, including bicycles, and the assumption is that it is a valid requirement unless someone wants to challenge it in accordance with this statute:
    s. 316.074 – Obedience to and Required Traffic Control Devices
    (1) The driver of any vehicle shall obey the instructions of any official traffic control device applicable thereto, placed in accordance with the provisions of this chapter, unless otherwise directed by a police officer, subject to the exceptions granted the driver of an authorized emergency vehicle in this chapter.
    (3) No provision of this chapter for which official traffic control devices are required shall be enforced against an alleged violator if at the time and place of the alleged violation an official device is not in proper position and sufficiently legible to be seen by an ordinarily observant person. Whenever a particular section does not state that official traffic control devices are required, such section shall be effective even though no devices are erected or in place.
    (4) Whenever official traffic control devices are placed in position approximately conforming to the requirements of this chapter, such devices shall be presumed to have been so placed by the official act or direction of lawful authority unless the contrary shall be established by competent evidence.
    (5) Any official traffic control device placed pursuant to the provisions of this chapter and purporting to conform to the lawful requirements pertaining to such devices shall be presumed to comply with the requirements of this chapter unless the contrary shall be established by competent evidence.

    Note that an improper sign cannot be enforced. An example is the use of “Bicycles Must Use Sidewalk” signs discussed in other posts on this site.

  3. Which begs the question: What is an emergency?

    I suggest that a cyclist on the edge of exhaustion could be placing himself in further danger if they don’t stop. Hence this would be an ’emergency stop’.

  4. Possibly. You just might need to convince a judge of that. In such a case, I would suggest moving well off the roadway so there would be no conflict with other traffic.

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