Management & Operations

FHWA strengthens sign, pavement rules

Posted on January 3, 2008

New rules for highway signs and pavement markings developed in response to a bus crash in Atlanta last March are among the changes in the Notice of Proposed Amendments for the next edition of the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD), Federal Highway Administrator J. Richard Capka announced Thursday.  

Some have pointed to confusing pavement markings and highway signs as possible contributing factors in the crash that claimed the lives of seven and injured 29 when a bus drove off an overpass in north Atlanta.  

"Safety is our top priority," said Administrator Capka. "While America's highways have never been safer, crashes like this one offer important opportunities to learn how they can be avoided in the future."  

Among many others, proposed changes for the 2009 edition of the MUTCD include stronger guidance on Guide Signs for Preferential Lanes, requiring that all HOV lane signs be consistent, using a green background and white legend; clearly worded signs for left-side direct exits in preferential lanes and for all left-side exits; and better HOV-lane pavement markings, specifically diamond-shaped symbols throughout the lane and at key traffic decision points, such as where lanes diverge.  

The updated edition will also address the needs of the growing older driver population, with proposed increases in the minimum size of warning signs on multi-lane roads and improvements in the ratio of letter height to legibility distance.  

In addition, a completely new section for the manual is proposed that will provide guidance on the maximum amount of information that can be comprehended by drivers based on speed and viewing distance, allowable number of messages on a sign, brightness levels and display time for each message.  

In use since 1953, the MUTCD is the national standard for highway signs, traffic signals, pavement markings and all other traffic control devices to promote safety and efficiency. New updates available online at

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