Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices

The Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) is a document issued by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) of the United States Department of Transportation (USDOT) to specify the standards by which traffic signs, road surface markings, and signals are designed, installed, and used. These specifications include the shapes, colors, and fonts used in road markings and signs. In the United States, all traffic control devices must legally conform to these standards. The manual is used by state and local agencies as well as private construction firms to ensure that the traffic control devices they use conform to the national standard. While some state agencies have developed their own sets of standards, including their own MUTCDs, these must substantially conform to the federal MUTCD.

The National Committee on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (NCUTCD) advises the FHWA on additions, revisions, and changes to the MUTCD.

Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices 2009 cover
Cover of 2009 edition


MUTCD (2003-Edition) Adoption
Map showing state adoption of the 2003 MUTCD

At the start of the 20th century—the early days of the rural highway—each road was promoted and maintained by automobile clubs of private individuals, who generated revenue through club membership and increased business along cross-country routes. However, each highway had its own set of signage, usually designed to promote the highway rather than to assist in the direction and safety of travelers. In fact, conflicts between these automobile clubs frequently led to multiple sets of signs—sometimes as many as eleven—being erected on the same highway.

Government action to begin resolving the wide variety of signage that had cropped up did not occur until the late 1910s and early 1920s, when groups from Indiana, Minnesota, and Wisconsin began surveying existing road signs in order to develop road signage standards. They reported their findings to the Mississippi Valley Association of Highway Departments, which adopted their suggestions in 1922 for the shapes to be used for road signs. These suggestions included the familiar circular railroad crossing sign and octagonal stop sign.[1]

In 1927, the American Association of State Highway Officials, or AASHO, published the Manual and Specifications for the Manufacture, Display, and Erection of U.S. Standard Road Markers and Signs to set standards for traffic control devices used on rural roads. This was followed by the Manual on Street Traffic Signs, Signals, and Markings, which set similar standards for urban settings. While these manuals set similar standards for each environment, the use of two manuals was decided to be unwieldy, and so the AASHO formed a Joint Committee in 1931 with the National Conference on Street and Highway Safety, or NCSHS, to develop a uniform standard for all settings. This standard was the MUTCD.[1]

The original edition of the Manual of Uniform Control Devices for Streets and Highways was published in 1935.[1] Since that time, eight more editions of the manual have been published with numerous minor updates occurring between, each taking into consideration changes in usage and size of the nation's system of roads as well as improvements in technology.

In 1942, the Joint Committee was expanded to include the Institute of Transportation Engineers, then known as the Institute of Traffic Engineers.[1] In 1960, the National Joint Committee on Uniform Traffic Control Devices was again reorganized to include representatives of the National Association of Counties and the National League of Cities, then known as the American Municipal Association.[1]

In 1966, Congress passed the Highway Safety Act, P.L. 89-564, 72 Stat. 885 (1966), which is now codified at 23 U.S.C. § 401 et seq. It required all states to create a highway safety program by December 31, 1968, and to adhere to uniform standards promulgated by the U.S. Department of Transportation as a condition of receiving federal highway-aid funds.[2] The penalty for noncompliance was a 10% reduction in funding. In turn, taking advantage of broad rulemaking powers granted in 23 U.S.C. § 402, the Department simply adopted the entire MUTCD by reference at 23 C.F.R. 655.603. Thus, what was formerly a quasi-official project became an official one. States are allowed to supplement the MUTCD but must remain in "substantial conformance" with the national MUTCD and adopt changes within two years after they are adopted by FHWA.

The 1971 edition of the MUTCD included several significant standards; it required all center lines on two-way roads to be painted in yellow (instead of white, which was to demarcate lanes moving in the same direction), and required that all highway guide signs (not just those on Interstate Highways) contain white text on a green background. Most of the repainting to the 1971 standard was done between 1971 and 1974, with a deadline of 1978 for the changeover of both the markings and signage.

On January 2, 2008, FHWA published a Notice of Proposed Amendment in the Federal Register containing a proposal for a new edition of the MUTCD, and published the draft content of this new edition on the MUTCD website for public review and comment. Comments[3] were accepted until July 31, 2008. The new edition was published in 2009.


Proposed additions and revisions to the MUTCD are recommended to FHWA by the National Committee on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (NCUTCD), a private, non-profit organization. The NCUTCD also recommends interpretations of the MUTCD to other agencies that use the MUTCD, such as state departments of transportation. NCUTCD develops public and professional awareness of the principles of safe traffic control devices and practices, and provides a forum for qualified individuals to exchange professional information.

The NCUTCD is supported by twenty-one sponsoring organizations, including transportation and engineering industry groups (such as AASHTO and ASCE), safety organizations (such as the National Safety Council and Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety), and the American Automobile Association. Each sponsoring organization promotes members to serve as voting delegates within the NCUTCD.

Other jurisdictions

The United States is among the majority of countries around the world that have not ratified the Vienna Convention on Road Signs and Signals (based primarily on European signage traditions), and thus the FHWA MUTCD differs significantly from the Vienna Convention. Achieving worldwide uniformity in traffic control devices was never a priority for AASHO because the number of motorists driving regularly on multiple continents was relatively small during the 20th century.[1]

Warning signs (alerting drivers of unexpected or hazardous conditions) tend to be more verbose than their Vienna Convention counterparts.[1] On the other hand, MUTCD guide signs (directing or informing road users of their location or of destinations) tend to be less verbose, since they are optimized for reading at high speeds on freeways and expressways.[1]

The MUTCD has become widely influential outside the United States; for example, the use of yellow stripes to divide opposing traffic has been widely adopted throughout the Western Hemisphere.

Australia, New Zealand, and Ireland use many road signs influenced by the MUTCD.


For road signs in Canada, the Transportation Association of Canada (TAC)[4] publishes its own Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices for Canada for use by Canadian jurisdictions. Although it serves a similar role to the FHWA MUTCD, it has been independently developed and has a number of key differences with its US counterpart, most notably the inclusion of bilingual (English/French) signage for jurisdictions such as New Brunswick and Ontario with significant anglophone and francophone population, a heavier reliance on symbols rather than text legends, and metric measurements instead of imperial.

The Ministry of Transportation of Ontario (MTO) also has historically used its own MUTCD which bore many similarities to the TAC MUTCDC. However, as of approximately 2000, MTO has been developing the Ontario Traffic Manual (OTM), a series of smaller volumes each covering different aspects of traffic control (e.g., regulatory signs, warning signs, sign design principles, traffic signals, etc.).

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Johnson, A.E. (1965). Johnson, A.E. (ed.). "A Story of Road Signing". American Association of State Highway Officials: A Story of the Beginning, Purposes, Growth, Activities, and Achievements of AASHO. Washington, D.C.: American Association of State Highway Officials: 129–138.
  2. ^ Fisher, Edward C. (1961). Vehicle Traffic Law (1967 supp. ed.). Evanston, IL: Traffic Institute, Northwestern University. p. 11.
  3. ^ "Public Comments on new MUTCD". docket FHWA-2007-28977.
  4. ^ TAC

External links

Bicycles May Use Full Lane

The Bicycles May Use Full Lane sign, also referred to as BMUFL or R4-11, first officially specified in Chapter 9B of the 2009 Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices, is a traffic sign used in the United States to:

designate roads with lanes that are too narrow to be safely shared side-by-side by a bicycle and another vehicle to indicate that bicyclists may occupy the full lane to discourage unsafe within-lane passing

encourage bicyclists to use the full lane to discourage unsafe within-lane passing

encourage motorists to change lanes to pass bicyclists

warn motorists that bicyclists may be using the full laneThe sign consists of a graphic image of a bicycle, followed by the words, "May Use Full Lane".

Comparison of MUTCD-influenced traffic signs

Road signs used by countries in the Americas are significantly influenced by the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD), first released in 1935, reflecting the influence of the United States throughout the region. Other non-American countries using road signs similar to the MUTCD include Australia, Indonesia, Ireland, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, and Thailand. They are also the only countries listed here which drive on the left—with the exception of Liberia and the Philippines (though partial), both of which drive on the right.

There are also a number of American signatories to the Vienna Convention on Road Signs and Signals: Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Cuba, Ecuador, French Guiana, Paraguay, and Suriname. Of those, only Chile, Cuba, and French Guiana have ratified the treaty.

Mandatory action signs in the Americas tend to be influenced by both systems. Nearly all countries in the Americas use yellow diamond warning signs. Recognizing the differences in standards across Europe and the Americas, the Vienna convention considers these types of signs an acceptable alternative to the triangular warning sign. However, UN compliant signs must make use of more pictograms in contrast to more text based US variants. Indeed, most Pan-American nations make use of more symbols than allowed in the US MUTCD.

It is also worth noting that, unlike in Europe, considerable variation within road sign designs can exist within nations, especially in multilingual areas.


A crossbuck is a traffic sign used to indicate a level railway crossing. It is composed of two slats of wood or metal of equal length, fastened together on a pole in a saltire formation (resembling the letter X). Crossbucks are sometimes supplemented by electrical warnings of flashing lights, a bell, or a gate that descends to block the road and prevent traffic from crossing the tracks.

HAWK beacon

A HAWK beacon (High-Intensity Activated crossWalK beacon) is a traffic control device used to stop road traffic and allow pedestrians to cross safely. It is officially known as a Pedestrian Hybrid Beacon (PHB). The purpose of a HAWK beacon is to allow protected pedestrian crossings, stopping road traffic only as needed. Where standard traffic signal 'warrants' prevent the installation of standard three-color traffic signals, the HAWK beacon provides an alternative.

A HAWK beacon is used only for marked crosswalks. Similar hybrid beacons are allowed at driveways of emergency service buildings such as fire houses.

International Municipal Signal Association

The International Municipal Signal Association (IMSA) is one of the two main professional organizations contributing input to the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) in revising and developing highway standards concerning traffic signals and control devices.

Primarily these standards are represented by the most current edition of the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD).

Through its members, the IMSA participates on national committees such as the Standards Committee of the IEEE-SA's National Electrical Safety Code (NESC), National Electrical Code (NEC), and the National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA). It is also designated as the FCC designated frequency coordinator for all public safety agencies.Another function of the IMSA is to develop certification standards and training in areas such as municipal fire alarm system technician, public safety dispatcher, roadway signs and markings, roadway lighting, traffic signal technician, and work zone traffic safety.

List of county routes in Fulton County, New York

County routes in Fulton County, New York, are signed with the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices-standard yellow-on-blue pentagon route marker. Road names are given where available; however, some routes are known only by their county route designation, especially those located in the rural northern portion of the county that lies within Adirondack Park.

List of county routes in Schuyler County, New York

County routes in Schuyler County, New York, are signed with the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices-standard yellow-on-blue pentagon route marker. Route numbers are generally assigned in a clockwise fashion, beginning in the northeastern corner of the county.

List of county routes in Tioga County, New York

County routes in Tioga County, New York, are signed with the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices-standard yellow-on-blue pentagon shield. Even numbered routes are east–west in direction, while odd numbered routes are north–south. County routes in Tioga County are also assigned section numbers based on town. The second and third digits are the same for each road name on a given route, but the first digit varies by town. Routes in the town of Barton, the first of nine towns alphabetically in Tioga County, have section numbers beginning with "1" while routes in the town of Tioga, the last alphabetically, have section numbers beginning with "9". Routes in the other seven towns—Berkshire, Candor, Newark Valley, Nichols, Owego, Richford, and Spencer—have section numbers beginning with "2" through "8", respectively. The section numbers, listed below as CH #, exist solely for inventory purposes and are not posted.

Logo sign

Logo signs (also known as specific service signs or Logo service signs, or colloquially as Big Blue Signs) are blue road signs used on freeways that display the logos or trademarks of businesses prior to an interchange. Typically, a business pays a small fee to a transportation department (or to a subcontractor of a transportation department such as Lamar Advertising subsidiary Interstate Logos) to have their logos displayed on a large panel alongside other businesses.

Maintenance of traffic

Maintenance of traffic (MOT), also known as temporary traffic control, is a process of establishing of a work zone, providing related transportation management and temporary traffic control on streets and highways right-of-way. This process does not apply to law enforcement officers.

The establishment of a work zone and management of temporary traffic control is conducted by traffic controllers, also known as flaggers, traffic observers, or spotters. Standards of operations are established by the department of transportation of each state, and may vary from state to state.

In the United States, traffic control devices are set up according to the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices, sometimes along with state supplements.Maintenance of traffic training in the United States is provided by the American Traffic Safety Services Association.

Portland Orange

Portland Orange is the color of light emitted by the dont walk phase of pedestrian crossing signals in the United States and Canada. The color was chosen to avoid confusion with regular traffic lights in conditions of poor visibility.Its chromaticity is specified by the Institute of Transportation Engineers in that body's technical standards, along with lunar white for the walk lights. Its application is stipulated in the U.S. federal Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices. Various jurisdictional standards also require Portland Orange for dont walk signs.The color can be created with some LEDs, and the ITE specifies the precision of its wavelength to 3 nanometers. In practice, the most brilliant color of gaseous tubing is similar to Portland Orange.

Reassurance marker

A reassurance marker or confirming marker is a type of traffic sign that confirms the identity of the route being traveled without providing information found on other types of road signs, such as distances traveled as is done by highway location markers, distances to other locations or upcoming intersections.

It is a highway shield, usually with a cardinal direction sign, that repeats the name or number of the current route. They are typically posted at intervals alongside a numbered highway.

Reverse curve

In civil engineering, a reverse curve (or "S" curve) is a section of the horizontal alignment of a highway or railroad route in which a curve to the left or right is followed immediately by a curve in the opposite direction.On highways in the United States reverse curves are often announced by the posting of a W1-4L sign (left-right reverse curve) or a W1-4R sign (right-left reverse curve), as called for in the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices.

Road signs in the United States

In the United States, road signs are, for the most part, standardized by federal regulations, most notably in the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) and its companion volume the Standard Highway Signs (SHS). There are no plans for adopting the Vienna Convention on Road Signs and Signals standards.

Twenty-three states along with the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico use the manual without any alterations, 20 states have adopted it in conjunction with a supplemental volume, and seven states have a state version in substantial conformance to the MUTCD. There are also localized versions that are used in large cities such as New York City which use a naming system compatible with the MUTCD and/or state supplement. The MUTCD and SHS establish seven general categories of signs for road and highway use (all signs from national MUTCD, unless noted).

Slow Children At Play

Slow children at play is a common sign seen in American cities urging motorists to slow down. The signs are seen around areas where children frequent, such as playgrounds and schools. They are almost always characterized by the words "Slow Children At Play" and a picture of a child running. They sometimes have a "suggested limit" posted on them. This rate is not a regulated or legal limit but rather a suggested rate that you may want to use if children are present. A regulated speed sign is always white with black lettering and the words "Speed Limit" are on the sign. This sign is yellow and is considered an "Advisory" or caution sign.

Sometimes neighborhood residents post impromptu signs after a child is struck by a vehicle. The signs quite often provide fodder for humor at the expense of slow (mentally handicapped) children.

Some municipalities will not post "Children at Play" signs. The website of Montgomery County, Maryland Department of Transportation states:

"Children at Play" signs are not approved for use by the "Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices", the national standard for traffic control signs. The generic message of these signs does not command sufficient motorists attention since motorists are generally aware of the increased possibility of children playing in adjacent yards and sidewalks when they are driving on any residential street.

"Children at Play" signs are inappropriate for public streets since they convey the suggestion that playing on the street is acceptable behavior, which it is not. Additionally, the installation of this sign may lead parents and children to believe they have an added degree of protection which these sign do not provide.

Traffic barricade

A traffic barricade is a type of barricade fitted with flashing lights and used to block excavations or road construction or other safety-related purposes. Formerly made of wood, or wood and steel, many now have structural members made wholly of plastic or composite materials.

The A-frame barricade or parade barricade resembles a sawhorse with a brightly painted top rail.

The Type I (or II) barricade also known as a waffle-board barricade resembles a sawhorse that can be folded flat. Type I indicates sheeting on top; Type II has sheeting on top and bottom.

The Type III barricade has multiple rails supported by two end postsType I, II and III barricades are commonly used for road detours and closings where vehicles are present. A-Frame barricades are more typically seen where pedestrian traffic control is needed or used on low speed roads.

In addition to the more traditional traffic barricades mentioned above there are several other categories of barricades that get used quite regularly for traffic channelization including concrete barriers, jersey barriers (may be water filled or plastic), traffic barrels or drums and vertical panels. Depending on space and need all of these categories are listed as acceptable barricade devices in the MUTCD (Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices). Traffic barrels and vertical panels are often used in areas where there is less horizontal space but they serve the same purpose - to help control the flow of traffic and protect workers.

One large multi-state company providing traffic barricade services was Houston-based, Highway Technologies, Inc., a US construction company that maintained offices in 33 cities.

It filed for bankruptcy in May 2013, laying off 740 of its 825 employees.

The company was founded in approximately 1983.

U.S. Route shield

The U.S. Route shield is the highway marker used for United States Numbered Highways. Since the first U.S. Route signs were installed in 1926, the general idea has remained the same, but many changes have been made in the details. Originally, the shield included the name of the state in which the sign was erected and the letters "U S" on a shield-shaped sign. Over time, the shield has been simplified to consist of a white shield outline on a black square background, containing only a black route number. However, because each state is responsible for the production and maintenance of U.S. Route shields, several variants of the shield have existed over the years.

Yellow trap

In right-hand traffic, the yellow trap is a potentially dangerous scenario in traffic flow through a traffic light relating to permissive left turns. It occurs when a circular yellow light is displayed to a movement with permissive left turns, while at the same time, opposing through traffic still has a circular green light. Some drivers facing the circular yellow (then red) lights will assume the opposite direction faces the same color display, and that oncoming traffic will stop. This leads to potential traffic conflict if drivers attempt to complete a left turn when it is not safe to do so. The left-turning driver may legally be at fault, for failure to yield, but made an understandable mistake.Solutions to the yellow trap include the flashing yellow arrow, Dallas phasing, Arlington phasing, simultaneously ending both through movements (circular green lights change to yellow, then red) before serving both left-turn movements (green arrows), or prohibiting one of the two left-turn movements.

Many agencies in North America routinely allow the yellow trap, especially during emergency vehicle preemption, despite clear prohibition from the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices. The MUTCD allows this sequence only if a sign reading '''Oncoming Traffic Has Extended Green''' or '''Oncoming Traffic May Have Extended Green''' is posted. Some of this stems from difficulties programming older traffic signal control software to prevent the yellow trap, but much stems from traffic engineers or technicians not understanding the yellow trap hazard, or believing it is not a serious problem.

In left-hand traffic, the same scenario is applicable for drivers turning right.

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