FHWA publishes final rule on retroreflective road markings


The US Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has announced a final rule that will ensure that road-surface markings are made more visible in dark or low light conditions.

Under the final rule, the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices for Streets and Highways (MUTCD) will provide a new minimum standard for pavement marking retroreflectivity effective 6 September 2022.

Retroreflective material reflects light more effectively back to the observer, making pavement markings that include them brighter and more easily seen in dark conditions. The rule is also expected to help reduce crashes by enhancing the ability of advanced driver assistance and autonomous vehicle technologies to identify pavement markings more readily.

“FHWA’s number one goal is to reduce highway fatalities and serious injuries wherever and whenever they occur,” says Stephanie Pollack, Acting Federal Highway Administrator. “This rule will save lives by helping those travelling see pavement markings more clearly and know what lies ahead, especially in darkness and other instances when visibility is critical.”

The MUTCD, the national standard for traffic control devices used on all streets, highways, bikeways, and private roads open to public travel, currently requires that pavement markings be visible at night and that all markings on interstate highways be retroreflective but does not require a minimum level. By creating one, FHWA believes state and local transportation agencies can reduce the number of severe crashes that happen in dark, unlighted conditions and result in an annual night-time fatality rate that is roughly three times the daytime fatality rate.

The final rule also requires state and local agencies or officials to implement a method within four years for maintaining pavement marking retroreflectivity at or above minimum levels. Pavement marking improvements are also eligible for up to 100% Federal-aid funding.

The rule is the latest action taken by FHWA to reduce roadway fatalities and serious injuries as part of the US Department of Transportation’s National Roadway Safety Strategy unveiled earlier this year.

A comprehensive update of the entire MUTCD is required under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and work on that update, in the form of the 11th Edition of the MUTCD, is currently underway by FHWA and required to be completed by May 2023. The Retroreflective Pavement Markings final rule (Revision 3 to the 2009 Edition of the MUTCD) will be included in the 11th Edition.

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Tom has edited Traffic Technology International (TTi) magazine and its Traffic Technology Today website since May 2014. During his time at the title, he has interviewed some of the top transportation chiefs at public agencies around the world as well as CEOs of leading multinationals and ground-breaking start-ups. Tom's earlier career saw him working on some the UK's leading consumer magazine titles. He has a law degree from the London School of Economics (LSE).