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MUTCD Rules for Using Vertical Panels

Vertical panels are most effective when used according to the rules laid down in the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices, or MUTCD. The following is a breakdown of these regulations. Please note that this post is intended as a high-level introduction to the topic. Consult the latest edition of the MUTCD for more detailed information.

·      Both horizontal and vertical panels can be used for one-way arrow signs.

·      Vertical panels can be used along with cones, drums, temporary raised islands, and other products to channelize traffic. They are especially useful around work zones, bypasses, pedestrian paths, and in between opposing lanes with traffic directions.

·      Vertical panels used for channeling traffic should be eight to 12 inches wide and a minimum of 24 inches high. They should have orange and white stripes. Panel stripes should be six inches in width, except where the panel is less than 36 inches high. In such cases, four-inch stripes can be used instead.

·      Panel stripes used on vertical panels should be retroreflective.

·      Vertical panels may be outfitted with supplemental warning lights to warn drivers that they are either in, or coming close to, a hazardous zone. The bottom of the warning light should be at least 30 inches from the surrounding pavement.

·      Overhead vertical panels should provide at least 17 feet of clearance between the road surface and the panel's bottom edge.

·      Vertical panels should be placed at right angles to the approach of oncoming traffic.

·      Vertical panels should be constructed of durable materials to the same standards as other traffic markers.


Vertical panels serve an important role in maintaining public safety. In most cases, however, orientation is of less importance than the colors, materials, and other design features of traffic control signs.

This doesn't mean the decision to use either vertical or horizontal orientation is irrelevant. Whether or not to consider this factor is up to local officials guided by the strictures of the MUTCD.