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How to Ensure MUTCD Pavement Markings

April 22, 2020

Pavement markings not only help guide motorists, they reinforce road signs and enhance safety. Every city and town in America must comply with standards set by the Federal Highway Administration’s Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD). Here are important points to remember about meeting these requirements for pavement markings.

Types of Pavement Markings

  • Yellow and white lines for roadways
  • Regulatory, caution and guidance markings
  • Bike lanes
  • Colored pavements
  • Striping for parking lots
  • Parallel parking
  • Truck lanes
  • Handicap parking symbols
  • Crosswalks

Multiple Reasons for Markings

One of the most important reasons for pavement markings is to complement road signs and reinforce messages to drivers. Markings also enhance visibility during periods of fog, rain, or snow, such as reflectors that help keep vehicles within lanes.

Sometimes, markings are needed simply because they are the only way to convey a message due to the limitations of other traffic control devices. A crosswalk, for example, needs to be painted on pavement to clarify a walkway for pedestrians. Bike lanes help keep cyclists separated from motor vehicles.

On wide freeways that lead to toll booths, arrows and other pavement markings help drivers prepare to slow down. Carpool lanes use the diamond symbol on the pavement, which warns solo drivers to keep out to avoid getting ticketed. In some cases, optional markings with removable tape can be used for temporary purposes, such as detours or maintenance work.

MUTCD Standards

Compliance with MUTCD pavement markings is achieved by studying the manual itself with the understanding that it is periodically updated. One of the key fundamental guidelines is that markings should be in place when a new road opens to the public. This includes ensuring the markings are visible to drivers, removing outdated markings, and using retroreflective materials on interstate highways.

Colored Longitudinal Lines

All jurisdictions must comply with MUTCD color requirements for longitudinal lines on roadways. White markings represent separation of traffic in the same direction, while yellow lines divide traffic moving oppositely. Yellow is also used for the left edge of highways and ramps, while white is used for the right edge of roadways. Red and blue are used for pavement markings, while black can be used with the other colors.

Red raised pavement markers mean drivers must not enter the lane, while blue markings are used in parking lots for handicap slots. When light colored pavement makes it difficult to view colored markings, black can be used if it provides sufficient contrast.

Widths and Patterns

Lines must meet the standard for MUTCD pavement markings for widths and patterns. Normal lines range from 4 to 6 inches wide, whereas wide lines must be at least double the width. Double yellow lines that separate two-way traffic must be separated by a discernible space. The difference between broken and dotted lines is that broken lines are 10-foot line segments separated by 30-foot gaps while dotted lines use 2-foot line segments with gaps that range from 2 to 6 feet.


Adding pavement markings to roads is useful for making neighborhoods safer, especially near schools and hospitals. It’s essential for all jurisdictions to comply with MUTCD requirements to avoid fines. Contact Zumar at our Arizona, California or Washington location to learn more about communication with motorists through signs and pavement markings.

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