For years, the MUTCD has required signs to be either illuminated or made with retroreflective sheeting materials. (For specific language in the MUTCD, visit http://mutcd.fhwa.dot.gov/.) Most signs in the United States fall in the latter category, but these materials have a limited life. They degrade over time. Until now, little information has existed to determine when signs should be replaced based on their retroreflectivity.
The 2003 MUTCD Edition, Revision 2, identifies minimum required retroreflectivity levels. If a sign falls below this minimum value, it needs to be replaced. Different types and quality of sheeting materials are available, and the effective life of a sign (that is, its retroreflectivity) will depend largely upon which material is chosen. To meet the requirements, all agencies must implement a traffic sign maintenance program by using one of the MUTCD’s predetermined methods. Failure to use one of the methods could result in lawsuits from drivers or their families who suffer injury or death attributable to substandard sign retroreflectivity maintenance. Agencies will not need to measure retroreflectivity levels of all their signs, but they do need to implement a program that regularly evaluates and assesses the nighttime performance of their signs.
By this date, all agencies will have to establish a sign maintenance program that can regularly address the new minimum sign retroreflectivity requirements.
By this date, all agencies must comply with the new retroreflectivity requirements for most of their traffic signs they have installed, including all red or white “regulatory” signs (such as STOP signs and Speed Limit signs), yellow “warning” signs, and green/white “guide” signs.
By this date, all agencies must comply with the new retroreflectivity requirements for overhead guide signs and all street name signs.
RESPONSIBILITIES OF PUBLIC AGENCIES
Public agencies—including State, county, and local/township agencies, as well as the Federal land management agencies (e.g., National Park Service, U.S. Forest Service, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife) and Tribal Governments that maintain roads open to public travel-have to comply with the minimum retroreflectivity requirements for their traffic signs. Public agencies should devote resources to retain the visibility and legibility of traffic signs, as well as ensuring that signs remain properly mounted and in good working condition.
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