Uniformity of Traffic Control Devices is Critical for Highway Safety

Uniformity of Traffic Control Devices is Critical for Highway Safety

Easy-to-read road signs, highly visible pedestrian crosswalks, and well-marked bike lanes are visible proof of the value of the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices. Known simply as the MUTCD, this manual has served as the definitive guide for creating safer, more efficient travel on our country’s highways and byways for over 80 years.

Promoting Safety and Efficiency Since 1935

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) publishes the MUTCD, which contains national standards for design, application, and placement, guidance, options, and support provisions for traffic control devices. The purpose of the manual is to ensure uniformity of these devices, which include signs, signals, and pavement markings, to promote highway safety and efficiency.

The first mimeographed copies of the MUTCD were distributed in 1935, and demand was go great that a printed version was published in 1937. The 1935 edition, which was approved as an American Standard, classified three types of signs: regulatory, warning, or guide signs. Regulatory signs were black on white rectangles except STOP signs, which were black on yellow or yellow on a red octagon. Diamond-shaped signs warned drivers to slow down, and caution signs were square. The manual promoted using symbols on signs because nighttime roadway illumination was becoming more common.

The first edition of the MUTCD also defined certain pavement markings. For example, it outlined the required use and color of centerlines, which could be white, yellow, or black depending on which created the greatest contrast. It also provided clarification on the number, color, and meaning of traffic signal indications, adopting the 3-color signal as the standard.

Over time the MUTCD has reflected the evolving need to accommodate increased traffic, higher speeds, and more commercial traffic. To keep pace with rapid changes in technology and traffic operations, this dynamic document is updated by the FWHA approximately every 5 years and published online to give users greater access to the most current information.

Setting National and State Safety Standards

The MUTCD is the national standard for all traffic control devices installed on any street, highway, or bicycle trail open to public travel. This includes toll roads and roads within shopping centers, parking lots, airports, sports arenas, and other similar business and recreation facilities that are privately owned but open to the public.

Although the FHWA publishes the manual, individual state and local highway agencies choose, install, operate, and maintain all traffic control devices on public roadways in the U.S. On private roads open to public travel, the owner is responsible, although in some state or local governments may exercise control over specific approval requirements.

State transportation agencies often differ in how they comply with MUTCD standards. For example, some states adopt the national MUTCD as their standard, while others include a supplement that may offer alternative options for specific purposes. Detailed standards for individual states can be found on the MUTCDs & Traffic Control Devices Information by State web page. Either way, state and local highway agencies are responsible for ensuring that all devices used on public roads under their jurisdiction are compliant with the MUTCD.

How to Select MUTCD Compliant Signs

Whether you are a road manager responsible for procuring signs for local streets or major highways, or the owner of private roads accessible to the public, you need to make sure the products you select are MUTCD compliant. From rollup construction signs to standard, parking, and handicapped signs, Traffic Safety Direct sells traffic signs that meet MUTCD requirements for design, placement, reflectivity and illumination, dimensions, and height. Our prices are competitive and you can choose from an array of stock signs as well as customizable signs for specific uses.

The MUTCD addresses every imaginable regulation for traffic control devices. If you want to know what type of sign is required for a particular purpose, consult the latest edition of the manual. Then contact Traffic Safety Direct for expert assistance in choosing the color, size, and reflectivity you need. And check out our latest video for tips on how to order the right STOP sign.

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