FHWA updates recommendations for traffic control devices

News U.S. DOT December 10, 2003
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Fluorescent pink signs to alert drivers to traffic crashes, large print on road signs for older drivers and "animated eyes" to caution pedestrians at intersections are among the improvements federal highway engineers are recommending states consider to make travel safer and easier. The recommendations are included in the Federal Highway Administration’s (FHWA) update of the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD), a publication used nationally by state and local transportation agencies in designing and placing traffic signs and signals and pavement markings.

These new standards and guidance for traffic control devices will increase safety and mobility for older drivers, pedestrians, bicyclists and construction workers, U.S. Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta said.

"Safety is the Bush administrations’s top transportation priority, and our new guidance underscores that commitment by taking into account the diverse safety needs of many audiences," Secretary Mineta said. "At the same time, these recommendations seek to make roads more user-friendly for all drivers and to benefit everyone."

Enhancements in the 2003 edition of the MUTCD include increased letter size on street signs and turn-path pavement markings at intersections meant to help older drivers. For pedestrians, the new manual includes guidelines for "animated eyes," electronic signs that mimic back-and-forth eye movements to serve as a reminder to look both ways before crossing a street; "countdown signals" that tell pedestrians the time remaining to cross a street safely; and crosswalk markings and "in-street" pedestrian signs that focus the eyes of the driver on crosswalk activity.

The revised manual also includes new provisions to help pedestrians with disabilities. For example, the use of barriers to assist in safe navigation of walkways and audible devices to communicate sign information will assist visually impaired individuals. To improve safety for bicyclists, the manual calls for new bicycle lane markings and symbols.

The new manual will help improve safety for highway construction workers by requiring high-visibility clothing and greater use of barricade devices. It allows fluorescent pink signs to alert drivers to traffic incidents, such as crash sites, closed exits and detours. It also provides for location and direction of travel reference signs that will be posted at shorter intervals than the current "mileposts," such as every one-tenth mile. These signs will help drivers and emergency responders in reporting and locating sites of breakdowns, crashes and other highway incidents, particularly in complex urban areas.

"While repairs and improvements are needed on our nation’s streets and highways to enhance safety and mobility, we also must find the right practices that can help to reduce the vulnerability of construction workers and prevent death or injury," FHWA Administrator Mary E. Peters said.

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