Regulations / Standards - 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.

Regulations / Standards

The Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) requires agencies to establish and implement a sign assessment or management method that will maintain minimum levels of sign retroreflectivity.

Revision to 2009 MUTCD - Compliance Dates

  • On May 14, 2012, a final rule was published in the Federal Register, revising Table I-2 in the Introduction of the 2009 MUTCD to modify the compliance dates for the minimum maintained sign retroreflectivity standard. That rulemaking  extended the compliance date for implementation and continued use of an assessment or management method that is designed to maintain traffic sign retroreflectivity at or above the established minimum levels  to June 13, 2014 and refined the compliance date to only apply to regulatory and warning signs, and not others.

    In addition, the final rule eliminated the target compliance dates for actual replacement of signs, which had previously been required by 2015 for post-mounted guide signs (except street name signs) and 2018 for street name signs and overhead guide signs.

    Visit the MUTCD website for additional information on this and other changes to the MUTCD.

  • MUTCD Language - Maintaining Sign Retroreflectivity:
    This link takes you to Chapter 2A of the 2009 MUTCD. Scroll down to Section 2A.08 Maintaining Minimum Retroreflectivity on page 30 of the 2009 MUTCD.

  • MUTCD Final Rule - Federal Register Notice:
    Published on Dec. 21, 2007 and effective Jan. 22, 2008, this final rule provided background and detail explaining the requirements for maintaining sign retroreflectivity. This document describes how the final rule was developed through the rulemaking process for the MUTCD. Note that the compliance dates related to this rulemaking were revised in May 2012.

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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