Why Is MUTCD Compliance Important?

The MUTCD Assures Safety and Operational Standards

Devices, markings, signs, and other road assets, which are officially termed Traffic Control Devices (TCD), emerged in the early 1920s in response to increased motor vehicle usage in the United States. Shortly after that, the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) was developed to ensure uniformity of traffic control devices across the nation and set minimum standards. Today, MUTCDs can include equipment such as pole mounted displays, RADAR trailers, and VMS trailers.

Uniformity among traffic control devices includes characteristics such as messaging, location, sizes, shapes, and colors. Maintaining consistency with TCDs contributes toward improving transportation system efficiency. 

The guidance outlined in the MUTCD is based on practical experience and research, as well as MUTCD studies. This process assures the visibility, recognition, and identification of traffic control devices. The MUTCD is an evolving document that is updated to address new and emerging safety and operational issues.

Origins of the MUTCD

When TCDs began being used in the 1920s, the First National Conference on Street and Highway Safety (NCSHS) and the American Association of State Highway Officials (AASHO) formed to promote standardization for traffic control and safety. By 1935, these organizations formed the first Joint Committee on Uniform Traffic Control Devices and published the first Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices.

Subsequent editions of the MUTCD have been released to address the changing requirements of traffic control. Increased traffic, higher speeds, and the need to accommodate travel in all types of weather have changed the demands on TCDs. 

Law enforcement agencies and municipalities depend on traffic control devices and rely on the MUTCD for guidance on changing standards. Rapid changes in technology, traffic control, and traffic operations make the MUTCD a fluid and dynamic resource. Keeping up with the latest developments can be challenging, but non-compliance can lead to problems like loss of federal aid funds and increased tort liability.

MUTCD Standards for Changeable Message Signs

Changeable message signs are an area of particular concern for MUTCD compliance. Some vendors on the market sell products that are not in compliance. This means that an agency may be forced to take down or stop using an expensive piece of equipment they have just invested valuable resources into purchasing. MUTCD standards that apply to pole mounted displays, RADAR trailers, and VMS trailers include: 

  • Only Amber color LEDs are allowed for any alphanumeric character on message trailers and RADAR feedback displays 
  • The legibility or size and type of character for any signage like “YOUR SPEED” or SPEED LIMIT signs
  • Flash rate of LEDs is regulated, so any rapid flashing of a message, digits, or alert is not compliant
  • Words and allowed abbreviations for message signs are specified on variable message signs
  • No animations or scrolling messages are allowed on variable message signs  

In view of the above standards, some features that are becoming popular in RADAR feedback displays, are not MUTCD compliant. These include:

  • Any other color LED  (white, red, blue & green are common in a few products)
  • Messages accompanying RADAR feedback display with very small characters
  • Flashing alerts like red LED “SLOW DOWN”
  • Red/Blue or Blue/Blue light simulated light bar violator alerts
  • White LED simulated photo flash 
  • Smiling or frowning faces as well as other emojis 

In several states, agencies have even been forced to take down non-compliant signs. This could occur anywhere that a local road or also a state or federal highway passes through a community. 

Kustom Signals Helps Your Agency Remain MUTCD Compliant

Kustom Signals has been proudly serving law enforcement agencies with quality technology for more than 57 years. 

Although a lot of Kustom Signals products have these non-compliant features, in order to compete in our markets and for those customers who don’t care, we are able to turn off or disable them if the customer strictly follows MUTCD. We are committed to serving law agencies and police departments with speed enforcement equipment that is fully compliant with MUTCD guidelines.

Kustom Signals offers many effective tools that help police departments operate efficiently and within MUTCD compliance including:

RADAR Speed Trailers  – SMART 12, SMART 18, and SMART 18 HP+ Speed Trailers 

RADAR Speed Displays – PDM 10 & 12 Portable Pole Mounted Displays and PMD 18 Pole Mounted Displays 

Messaging Trailers  – SMART VMS I, SMART VMS II/HT, and SMART VMS III Variable Message Signs.

In addition to effective and dependable products, Kustom Signals offers assistance and resources, including grant programs to help with funding shortfalls in police departments through our partnership with PoliceGrantsHelp. We help police departments save money, increase safety, and stay compliant.

Categories : Urban Policing

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