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Traffic Safety Equipment: Sign Screening Technologies

The MUTCD, or Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices, has a strict set of regulations that act as standards for how signage on America’s roadways is tested before and during its life cycle.  These sign screening technologies help keep traffic safety equipment in prime operating conditions.

Retroreflectivity is a key component in the construction of virtually all roadway signs.  This refers to how a sign reflects light both at night and during the day.  As with any other surface coating, retroreflectivity breaks down over time and must be tested and properly maintained in order to maximize its lifespan.  There are two basic methods that agencies can employ to maintain retroreflectivity at or above MUTCD-required levels.  Agencies can use either an assessment method or a management method to ensure the signage is adequate. 

Within the category of assessment methods, a qualified inspector can use comparison panel testing, consistent parameters procedures, or calibration signs procedure.  These procedures all involve comparing a variable sign with a control sign that has acceptable retroreflectivity levels.  The type and age of the sign or signs being tested will determine which procedure is used.  In contrast, the measured retroreflectivity procedure requires the use of a reflectometer, and compares the variable sign to acceptable levels for that particular type and age of sign.  

Alternately, agencies may choose to use a management method.  Management methods are based on factors such as sign service life, sheeting warranties, and other known factors of a group of signs.  These methods do not involve field inspectors assessing individual signs.  According to the MUTCD, agencies may choose either a management method, assessment method or some combination of the two.  

Measurement and maintenance of signage is a very important aspect of roadway safety.  Traffic safety equipment and safety products are depended on every day to keep us safe on America’s roadways.  Trained professionals use sophisticated procedures and equipment to determine if signs are still visible enough to keep drivers safe.