The Car and Truck Fleet and Leasing Management Magazine

DOT Updates National Road Safety Standards

December 23, 2009

WASHINGTON, D.C. --- U.S. Transportation Sec. Ray LaHood on Dec. 16 released a major update to the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD). The manual, administered by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) since 1971, sets the standards for road safety throughout the country.

"These new and updated standards will help make our nation's roads and bridges safer for drivers, construction workers and pedestrians alike," LaHood said.

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.

By requiring better pavement markings that 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:

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

For more details about the changes, visit


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