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How to Maintain Your Traffic Sign Reflectivity

Maintaining traffic sign reflectivity is vital to public safety.  Fortunately, doing so is a relatively straightforward process.  In this post we’ll outline the basic steps.  Since this is a high-level introduction to the topic, we encourage interested parties to refer to the most recent edition of the MUTCD for detailed information on the topic.

Measuring Traffic Sign Reflectivity

Three methods are currently in use for determining traffic sign reflectivity.  These are:

  1. The calibration sign method.  The inspector begins by viewing a sign with a known calibration setting, then performing visual inspections of signs being used in the field.  If, the inspector judges the field signs to be below minimum reflectivity levels, then he tags the units for replacement.
  2. The comparison panels method.  With this technique, the inspector attaches panels judged to be at standard reflectivity levels to field signs.  He or she then compares the two surfaces for brightness.  If the field unit seems less bright than the comparison panel, then the inspector tags the sign for replacement.
  3. Nighttime visual inspections.  To perform this type of check, the inspector must be at least 60 years old and drive a pickup truck or SUV made after the year 2000.  He or she makes a trained on-the-spot judgment call about whether each marker offers acceptable traffic sign reflectivity levels.  Those deemed to be below minimal standards are tagged for replacement.

Managing Traffic Sign Replacement

Just as there are three methods for judging traffic sign reflectivity, there are three procedures for replacing signs.  These include:

  1. Replacing signs based on their expected lifespan.  This technique forgoes inspections for automatic replacement at set times.
  2. Blanket replacement.  This method is similar to method one, except that entire groups of signs are replaced at a given point rather than individual units.
  3. The control sign method.  With this procedure, inspectors survey a control group of signs.  When they fall beneath standard traffic sign reflectivity levels, then crews replace all the traffic signs within the area.


Maintaining minimum traffic sign reflectivity is crucial to safeguarding the public.  By using the methods outlined in this post, public planners can prevent accidents and ensure a better driving experience for all motorists.