Sign Retroreflectivity

Adequately maintained retroreflective signs improve highway safety and prevent roadway departure crashes by bouncing light from vehicle headlights back toward the vehicle and the driver's eyes, making the signs appear brighter and easier to see and read. Because the retroreflective properties of traffic control devices deteriorate over time, highway agencies need to actively manage the maintenance of signs in order to ensure that they are clearly visible at night.

Implementation Tools

  • Sign Retroreflectivity Requirements: An Overview Updated!
    This trifold provides basic information on the sign retroreflectivity requirements in the MUTCD.  It is intended to be printed double-sided and folded in thirds.  There is a blank space so that organizations and companies can print and send it as a mailer.  [Publication No. FHWA-SA-08-001(Revised 2013)] No hard copies available from FHWA.

  • NCHRP Synthesis 431: Practices to Manage Traffic Sign Retroreflectivity New!
    This synthesis contains example practices to illustrate how different types of transportation agencies might meet MUTCD retroreflectivity requirements for traffic signs.  It includes results of a broad survey of agencies regarding their practices; case studies for a large and a small city, a county and a State DOT; and  effective practices.

  • Sign Retroreflectivity Guidebook “Toolkit” :
    The Toolkit is designed for use by small and medium sized local agencies. It provides an automated approach to understanding the new sign maintenance requirements and will assist in implementing the minimum sign retroreflectivity requirements. See note below. [Publication No. FHWA-CFL/TD-09-005]

  • Sheeting ID Guide:
    FHWA developed this table to assist practitioners in selecting retroreflective sheeting materials. The table provides information about the typical uses of various retroreflective sheeting materials, by ASTM type, manufacturer, brand name and series number. [Publication No. FHWA-SA-11-14]

  • PowerPoint Presentation: Minimum Sign Retroreflectivity Requirements:
    A 15-minute Powerpoint presentation providing an overview of the sign retroreflectivity requirements.

  • Sign Retroreflectivity Training Course: See note below. [PDF 5.21 MB, PPT 22.4 MB]
    This detailed training course provides materials for a wide range of audiences on a full spectrum of sign retroreflectivity topics. This includes: sign retroreflectivity background and basic concepts, nighttime visibility issues, a description of the sign retroreflectivity rule requirements, and steps to implementation. This last topic area includes selecting a method, budgeting to develop and use a method, training inspectors, making decisions about types of sheeting to use for replacement, and budgeting for replacing signs.

NOTE: Revisions to reflect the May 2012 final rule that changed the MUTCD compliance date requirements have not yet been made to this document and should be kept in mind while viewing the document.

For hard copies of documents with publication numbers, please send a request to report.center@dot.gov and include the publication number and title, along with the number of copies and your mailing address and phone number. Requests will be filled based on availability.

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Program Contact

Cathy Satterfield

What's New

FHWA Resource Charts, July 2013

FHWA Roadway Lighting Handbook, August 2012

RwD Strategic Plan, April 2013

Updated Guidance on Sign Retroreflectivity, April 2013

Clarifying Guidance on Daytime Luminance, January 2013

Guidance for the Selection , Use and Maintenance of Cable Barrier Systems, November 2012