Traffic’s Frequently Asked Questions

expand Title : Traffic Terms and Definitions ‎(1)

  • Question Mark Icon1. What is the purpose of a traffic signal?

    The Federal Highway Administration's  Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) defines a traffic control signal as any highway traffic signal by which traffic is alternatively directed to stop and permitted to proceed. Traffic is defined as pedestrians, bicyclists, ridden or herded animals, vehicles, streetcars, and other conveyances either singularly or together while using any highway for purposes of travel.

    A traffic signal that is properly designed and timed can be expected to provide one or more of the following benefits:

      • Provide for the orderly and efficient movement of people.
      • Effectively maximize the volume movements served at the intersection.
      • Reduce the frequency and severity of certain types of crashes.
      • Provide appropriate levels of accessibility for pedestrians and side street traffic.
      • The degree to which these benefits are realized is based partly on the design and partly on the need for a signal. A poorly designed signal timing plan or an unneeded signal may make the intersection less efficient, less safe, or both.



  • Question Mark Icon2. How do I report a traffic signal that is out?

    ​If you would like to report a traffic signal that is out, please call 561-233-3900.

  • Question Mark Icon3. Who do I contact to discuss a signal timing problem I have observed?

    ​Please email your concerns to​ ​. Please include the following information in your email: the roadway you were traveling on, your direction of travel, time of day, day of the week and a summary of the problem you observed.

  • Question Mark Icon4. Will a traffic signal reduce intersection crashes?

    Traffic signals do not prevent crashes. Certain types of crashes can be reduced in number or severity by the installation of a signal, while other types will increase. Where signals are used unnecessarily, the most common results are an increase in total crashes, especially rear-end collisions. Traffic signals are not an answer for every problem intersection. A signal placed at a wrong location can contribute not only to rear-end collisions, but excessive delays, unnecessary travel on alternate routes and more congested traffic flow.


  • Question Mark Icon5. How does Palm Beach County decide to install a traffic signal?

    Palm Beach County's Traffic Engineering Division has a policy that defines the minimum factors to be considered when evaluating the need for new traffic signals. These factors are generally described below:

      • Confirmation that the requested location is within Palm Beach County's traffic control jurisdiction. For intersections not within the County's jurisdiction, such as Boca Raton and the Town of Palm Beach, requests for traffic signals are deferred to the agency with jurisdiction.
      • If the location is within Palm Beach County's traffic control jurisdiction, an engineering study of traffic conditions, pedestrian characteristics and physical characteristics of the location is conducted to determine if any of the Federal Highway Administration's, Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) warrants are met.  The MUTCD establishes minimum conditions under which a signal installation should be considered.  A traffic signal should not be installed unless at least one warrant is met.  The satisfaction of a traffic signal warrant or warrants does not in itself require the installation of a traffic signal. Warrants should be viewed as guidelines, not as absolute values. Engineering judgment should be exercised in making the final determination.
      • Special consideration is given to communities with elderly drivers by reducing the volume thresholds for the minor streets. 
      • Florida Department of Transportation policies for installing traffic signals are also reviewed for consideration of a traffic signal.

  • Question Mark Icon6. How do I request a new traffic signal?

    If you have a request for a new traffic signal, please review the requirements for installing a new traffic signal summarized in the question and answer number 5 before submitting your request. Please submit your request to​ ​for evaluation.

  • Question Mark Icon7. What are the basics of traffic signal timing?

    The fundamental components of a traffic signal timing plan include (but are not limited to) the signal phase and cycle.

    A signal phase (also called a split) is the time allotted to allow a designated movement to flow or be safely halted.

    A cycle is one complete rotation through all of the signal phases.

    There are different types of signal operations as summarized below:

      1. Pre-timed traffic signals operate on a fixed cycle length, phase sequence, phase length.
      2. Semi actuated traffic signals receive input from traffic detectors regarding minor street demands where minor streets intersect with a major street. The traffic signal on the major street is subject to change from a green to a red if the side street demands are detected and or if a predefined major street maximum green time is met.
      3. Fully actuated traffic signals have traffic detectors on every approach and operate according to pre-programmed rules dependent on the detection of traffic demands. This is most common at major intersection locations where demands are high for all approaches and movements.


        Additionally, traffic signals are setup to run in either Free "on-demand" mode or in Coordination mode. Free mode operation is generally utilized at traffic signals that are isolated and are not in close proximity to other traffic signals. Additionally, most traffic signals operate in free mode overnight when traffic volumes are low.


        Coordination mode is largely a strategic approach to synchronize signals together to meet specific objectives. The main objectives are to provide smooth flow of traffic along streets and highways in order to reduce travel times, stops and delay. Establishing coordination is easiest to justify when the intersections are in close proximity and there is a large amount of traffic on the coordinated "major" street.



  • Question Mark Icon8. I see cameras mounted on traffic signal mast arms. Does Palm Beach County record video?

    The Traffic Engineering Division has several types of cameras it uses for traffic control and management. The most common types are shown below in Figure 1 and Figure 2. Figure 1 is a vehicle detection camera. This is used to detect traffic demands on an intersection approach in order for the traffic signal to service a movement. Figure 2 is a traffic monitoring camera and is used to observe traffic flows. These cameras stream video to the Traffic Engineering Division for real time use only. Video streams are NOT recorded

    Figure 1 Video Detection Camera Mounted on a Mast Arm
    traffic camera mounted on mast arm
    Figure 2 Traffic Monitoring Camera 
    traffic monitoring camera

  • Question Mark Icon9. What are the causes of delay at a signalized intersection?

    There are multiple causes of delay at a signalized intersection. These are summarized below.

    Vehicle and or Pedestrian Detection Failure:  Detection failure can be the result of a malfunction or the result of the detection device not being properly aligned to detect traffic accurately.  Detection failure will cause vehicles or pedestrians to not be detected and or relay to the traffic signal controller about demands that do not exist.

    Traffic Signal Preemption and Priority: Traffic signals may be designed and operated to respond to certain vehicles such as buses, trains, and emergency vehicles so that if these vehicles approach the intersection the signal phasing changes to favor that vehicle. 

    Preemption control in Palm Beach County is given to trains and emergency vehicles so that when they approach an intersection they may immediately and safety pass through. When a train approaches an intersection, the conflicting movements will transition to the red indication no matter where the intersection is in its phase sequence. This will also take place when an emergency vehicle approaches an intersection; however, depending on the emergency vehicle's route, a softer preemption may take place "Priority".

    Start up Lost Time: A fundamental characteristic of a signalized intersection is the periodic stopping and restarting of traffic. Each traffic signal phase has start up lost time that is attributed to the driver's reaction to the change from a red to green and the time it takes for the vehicles at the approach to begin moving. This lost time adds up when a location has multiple phases, such as left turn phases.

    Suboptimal Traffic Signal Timing Plans: Traffic demands change hourly, daily and seasonally. New developments such as stores, gas stations, schools, and neighborhoods also create new demands and traffic patterns in the transportation system. Traffic engineers regularly review the signal timing plans for improvements to meet these changing demands but rely a lot on citizens to alert them of changes in demand that may be causing added delays that signal timing adjustments could help alleviate. However, once an intersection reaches capacity signal retiming for delay reduction becomes impossible. There is simply not enough green time to meet the demands of all approaches. Solutions such as road widening, mass transit and other multimodal improvements should be considered as a solution to the increased demands.

    The County in coordination with the Department of Transportation is implementing adaptive signal control strategies at major arterials to improve traffic flow by adjusting signal timing based on actual traffic demand.  The County is also implementing new technologies to improve safety and operations using intelligent transportation systems (ITS) as well as exploring new opportunities provided by the evolving field of advanced communications between vehicles and the roadway infrastructure (signal controllers) that are already being implemented by a number of car manufacturers. Vehicle-vehicle and vehicle-highway communication is anticipated to be significantly enhanced with the implementation of the 5G network.

  • Question Mark Icon10. How does Palm Beach County consider requests for a left turn arrow, also known as a protected left turn phase?

    ​The Traffic Engineering Division has established guidelines for reviewing requests for a protected left turn phase that are based on practices established by the Institute of Transportation Engineers (ITE) and other professional organizations. These guidelines consider current and projected traffic volumes, delay, and the location's crash history.  If these guidelines are not met, a protected left turn phase will not be installed because of the delay this phase will add to the intersection. In order to provide a protected left turn or green arrow, an extra phase is added to the traffic signal timing plan's cycle, taking green time from other movements.

  • Question Mark Icon11. How are speed limits established? How can I request that the speed limit be increased or reduced?

    The Florida State Statute 316.189 requires local governments to determine speed limits on public roads based on engineering and traffic investigations following guidelines established by the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT). These guidelines provide that the speed limit should be determined based on the speed at or below which 85% of the free-flowing vehicles are traveling during a speed survey. Otherwise, the speed limit shall be the higher end of the 10-mile-per-hour range containing the highest number of the vehicles observed. These guidelines provide the speed at which the overwhelming majority of the drivers feel most safe and comfortable for their travel.


    If you feel the currently posted speed limit may have not been established following the above guidelines and you want to request an evaluation and possible change, please email your request for an evaluation to

  • Question Mark Icon12. Does a traffic signal control speed?

    ​No. In some areas where speeding is a problem, residents believe that a traffic signal is needed to address the speeding problem. In fact, traffic signals sometimes result in greater speeds as drivers accelerate to try to get through the signal before it turns red. Other traffic control measures such as speed humps, speed limit signs, and traffic enforcement, are more effective in controlling speed. Likewise, the MUTCD states that STOP signs shall not be used to control speed.

  • Question Mark Icon13. How can I get street lighting on my street?

    Palm Beach County has an annual street lighting program to install lighting along major county roadways located within the unincorporated boundaries. Under current criteria, only thoroughfare roads with four or more lanes will be considered for street lighting under this program. Within municipal limits, contact the appropriate municipal office with your request. If you would like to request street lighting for a thoroughfare road located in unincorporated Palm Beach County, submit your request by email to​

  • Question Mark Icon14. My street light is out, who do I contact to have this fixed?

    If you would to report a street light outage within a municipal boundary (such as within a city, town or village) please contact that municipal entity. Contact information for the municipalities in Palm Beach County please visit our Municipalities webpage.

    For street lights out in neighborhoods, please contact your home owner's association, master association or property manager. If you do not have an HOA, master association or property manager please contact FPL. By phone:   1-800-4OUTAGE   or 1-800-468-8243 or on their website

    For street lights attached to traffic signals or street lights along any of the following roadway segments, please report these to Traffic Operations by calling 561-683-6885 or by emailing​ .

    • Australian Ave./Congress
    • Beeline Hwy.
    • Lake Ida & Via Flora
    • Hagen Ranch Rd & Gateway/Aberdeen Lakes Dr
    • Jog Road (West Side Only)      
    • Melaleuca Ln.
    • Sr 7/Us-441
    • Southern Blvd.
    • Military Trail
    • W. Atlantic                                  
    • Hypoluxo Rd
    • Sr7 Extension/Western Prkwy
    • 45th Street, W Of Turnpike

    For all other major roadways, please contact FPL regarding the street light outage. By phone:   1-800-4OUTAGE   or 1-800-468-8243 or on their website


    If you would like to report a traffic signal that is out, please call 561-683-6885.

  • Question Mark Icon15. How do I get an ALL WAY stop sign installed?

    Two or more approaches of an intersection can be controlled by a stop sign. Typically two approaches have a stop sign control and the other approaches do not. When all approaches have stop signs this is called ALL WAY stop control.

    ALL WAY stop signs are installed following guidelines established in Federal and State guidelines. These guidelines include but are not limited to traffic volumes on all approaches, clear line of sight, and crash history.  An engineering study is commissioned to determine if the installation of an ALL WAY stop control is appropriate. 

    Unwarranted ALL WAY stop control may result in more crashes. Stop signs shall not be used to control speeds.

  • Question Mark Icon16. No parking signs

    ​NO PARKING (NP) signs may be installed along the swale side of the road only if an engineering and traffic investigation determines that parked vehicles may cause safety concerns for any road user, including vehicles, bikers, or pedestrians. The State Statute and the Palm Beach County Parking Ordinance prohibit parking under numerous circumstances such as along curbed segments of the road, blocking access to a fire hydrant, blocking access to a driveway, close proximity to an intersection blocking the view of a traffic control device, etc. NP signs shall not be installed where parking is prohibited by State Statute or County Ordinance.

  • Question Mark Icon17. How are school zones designed?

    ​School zones are evaluated based on guidelines established in coordination with the school district and law enforcement agencies.  Established school crossings are marked with appropriate standard signs and pavement markings and are manned by adult crossing guards. School speed zone flashers and signs are installed in accordance with the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) and FDOT's Speed Zoning for Highways, Roads and Streets in Florida manual.  School speed zones are established only on roads fronting school properties and street segments where elementary and/or middle school students walk across the street at an established school crossing.

  • Question Mark Icon18. What is Palm Beach County’s Policy for installing accessible pedestrian devices, including audible pedestrian signals?

    ​Accessible pedestrian signals and detectors are designed to provide information to pedestrians with visual disabilities when crossing streets at signalized locations.  They provide information in non-visual formats, such as audible tones, speech messages and or vibrating surfaces.  Once the need for these devices has been established and the requestor has identified the route and has been trained on the use of these devices, these devices will be ordered and installed.  Annually, the need and effectiveness of all of the accessible pedestrian signals and devices will be reevaluated to determine if enhancements or removal of the signals and devices is needed. This includes following up with the original requester for feedback on the installed systems.

  • Question Mark Icon19. When is a right turn lane or left turn justified?

    ​Right and or left turn lanes may be installed at the County's expense, on a public road serving another public road, if a traffic engineering study performed by the County determines that such an installation is justified. Turn lanes into private developments are installed at the expense of the development being served.  Requests for turn lanes serving private property needs to be made to the County by the official(s) representing the private property.

  • Question Mark Icon20. Bike lanes on Palm Beach County maintained roads.

    Palm Beach County’s design standards for new and widened roads provide for standard designated bike lanes compliant with the FDOT standards. However, the paved shoulders of many of the existing roads are not designated as bike lanes because they are not wide enough to meet the minimum requirements of the FDOT standards. The county has recently updated its standards to designate bike lanes on all roads where enough shoulder width can be provided by reducing all vehicular lanes to 11’ at the time these roads are resurfaced. For information on the available and planned designated bike lanes in Palm Beach County please visit Palm Beach Transportation Planning Agency website at:

  • Question Mark Icon21. What is the County’s policy on no right turn on red signs?

    ​Right Turn on Red (RTOR) may be prohibited if there is inadequate sight distance with opposing movements, a skewed intersection angle with reduced visibility, an exclusive pedestrian phase, significant pedestrian/bicycle conflict especially involving children, more than three crashes during the RTOR phase reported in a 12-month period at the same approach, or a combination of these factors as determined by an engineering study.  RTOR are allowed except when explicitly prohibited using overhead or posted signs. 

  • Question Mark Icon22. How can I request speed humps? What is the criteria used to review these requests?
    ​To request speed humps on a roadway within Palm Beach County's Traffic Control Jurisdiction, please submit this request to​. The Traffic Division evaluates these requests based on criteria that includes roadway traffic volume, average vehicle speed, and crash history. Neighborhood consensus supporting the installation of the speed humps is also required.

  • Question Mark Icon23. How do I pay my ticket?

    ​If you received a citation for a traffic violation (in other words a traffic ticket) from the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office (PBSO), please visit the Palm Beach County Clerk and Comptroller website for more information on paying or contesting your traffic ticket.

    If you received a citation from a law enforcement agency other than PBSO please contact that agency for more information on paying the ticket.

  • Question Mark Icon24. Public records requests for crash investigations and other requests:

    ​For all public records requests, please contact the Engineering Action Center:

    Engineering Action Center :
    Phone:   561-684-4012 or 561-684-4018

  • Question Mark Icon25. Does Palm Beach County allow memorial markers?

    ​Palm Beach County does not allow memorial markers within the County's right of way. Interested entities may seek approval from the abutting property owners to display such memorials on private property.

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