U.S. DOT releases update to Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices

| December 17, 2009

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood on Dec. 16 released a comprehensive update to the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD). The manual, which has been administered by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) since 1971, sets the standards for road safety throughout the country.

“Safety is this Department’s top priority,” said Secretary LaHood in a written statement from the U.S. DOT. “These new and updated standards will help make our nation’s roads and bridges safer for drivers, construction workers and pedestrians alike.”

The MUTCD is the national standard for all traffic control devices, including traffic signs, pavement markings, signals and any other devices used to regulate, warn or guide traffic. Ensuring uniformity of traffic control devices across the nation – from their messages and placement to their sizes, shapes and colors – helps to reduce crashes and traffic congestion. This is the first comprehensive update to the manual since 2003.

The MUTCD’s 2009 edition features many new and updated requirements, ranging from changes in highway signs and bike lanes to the color of high-visibility garments worn by road workers. Most changes are a result of extensive research; however, seven changes stem from recommendations from the National Transportation Safety Board. This is the largest number of NTSB recommendations adopted by the MUTCD at one time.

“Adopting the lessons learned in recent years will help make roads safer for everyone,” said Federal Highway Administrator Victor Mendez in a press release.

By requiring better pavement markings which can increase bike lane safety, and extending walk times for pedestrians at crosswalks, the updated MUTCD furthers the “complete streets” concept – an effort long championed by the FHWA to ensure roads accommodate all types of travel, not just automobiles.

Among the other new provisions in the MUTCD are the following:

• Replacing highway signs with brighter, larger and more legible ones that are easier to understand at freeway speeds. States will begin using the newer signs as existing ones wear out.

• Adding different lane markings for lanes that do not continue beyond an intersection or interchange to give drivers more warning that they need to move out of the lane if they don’t intend to turn.

• Expanding the use of flashing yellow arrow signals at some intersections to give a clearer indication that drivers can turn left after yielding to any opposing traffic.

• Changing the formula used to calculate crosswalk times to give walkers more time.

• Identifying electronic toll collection lanes with purple signs – the first time purple has been sanctioned for use on highway signs.

• Adding overhead lane-use control signs to reduce confusion among drivers in unfamiliar multi-lane roadways.

For an overview of the new rules and recommendations, visit http://mutcd.fhwa.dot.gov or click here for Part II: Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration 23 CFR Part 655 National Standards for Traffic Control Devices; the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices for Streets and Highways; Revision; Final Rule.

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