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Making Sure Street Signs are Easy to Read

June 14, 2018

Federal guidelines require that street signs from city to city be uniform, so travelers can understand them wherever they visit. Signs made of aluminum with protective and reflective coating can last several years before fading or needing to be replaced. Here are important facts to remember about street signs.

Street Sign Standards

Signs on major roads must follow standards issued through the federal Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MCTCD) guidelines issued by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA).

The design of the sign usually has a white name over a green retroreflective or illuminated background. With some exceptions such as areas with blue or brown signs, different colored backgrounds are not allowed. Other types of road signs, such as interstate route signs, must conform to federal standards in terms of size, shape, design and color. The use of upper-case or lower-case letters and spacings are determined by the “Standard Highway Signs and Markings” book.

The 800 + page MUTCD guidelines book has been available since 1971 and encompasses multiple national standards for all traffic control devices. In addition to street name signs, guidelines are provided for road markings, highway signs, and traffic signals. The manual is updated to reflect changes due to new technology and traffic management techniques.

In 2010 the FHWA mandated that all local governments, including those in the smallest towns, had to replace street signs to conform to new standards. Changes included the increase in letter size from 4 to 6 inches on all roads with speed limits over 25 mph. All signs had to have reflective letters that can be seen at night, by January 2018. The 3M Corporation is a leading manufacturer of this reflective material. The new guidelines also prohibited street names in all caps, so that they are easier to read for aging seniors.

When to Replace Street Signs

Local governments are responsible for maintaining local road signs of all types. These signs are usually made of durable aluminum and can last a decade. Sometimes signs mysteriously disappear or are damaged due to vandalism. Citizens who notice missing signs should immediately report them to the public works department within their city government.

All street signs should be easy to read at all times of the day, especially at night. If the sign is damaged by debris, sunlight or volatile winter conditions it may need to be replaced. Signs with overlaid clear sheeting can be cleaned quickly when defaced by graffiti. Some cities, such as San Diego, reuse damaged signs after they are refurbished by recycling companies.

Contact Zumar to receive a Free Quote on road signs.

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