Can we use three flags to improve “Conspicuity” on our road signs?

sign with  3 flags

The use of three flags on a sign is allowed only with work zone signs and not on regulatory or warning signs. However, the National MUTCD does allow several methods for improving ‘Conspicuity’ to signs in Section 2A.15. Of these methods, the NYS Supplement to the National MUTCD does not allow Method “C” in New York. Any of the remaining options can be used on any sign. 

Of those conspicuity methods that are available in NY, the most common is to add a retroreflective strip on the sign post. With regard to adding flags, Method E, the MUTCD, discusses how they are to be placed.  They allow (2) flags at 45 degree angles to be placed above the sign (There is a picture of this in Figure 2A-1). The MUTCD states:

Figure 2A from the MUTCD

Section 2A.15 Enhanced Conspicuity for Standard Signs


01 Based upon engineering judgment, where the improvement of the conspicuity of a standard regulatory, warning, or guide sign is desired, any of the following methods may be used, as appropriate, to enhance the sign’s conspicuity (see Figure 2A-1):

A. Increasing the size of a standard regulatory, warning, or guide sign.

B. Doubling-up of a standard regulatory, warning, or guide sign by adding a second identical sign on the left hand side of the roadway.

C. Adding a solid yellow or fluorescent yellow rectangular “header panel” above a standard regulatory sign, with the width of the panel corresponding to the width of the standard regulatory sign. A legend of “NOTICE,” “STATE LAW,” or other appropriate text may be added in black letters within the header panel for a period of time determined by engineering judgment. NOT ALLOWED IN NYS

D. Adding a NEW plaque (see Section 2C.62) above a new standard regulatory or warning sign, for a period of time determined by engineering judgment, to call attention to the new sign.

E. Adding one or more red or orange flags (cloth or retroreflective sheeting) above a standard regulatory or warning sign, with the flags oriented so as to be at 45 degrees to the vertical.

F. Adding a solid yellow, a solid fluorescent yellow, or a diagonally striped black and yellow (or black and fluorescent yellow) strip of retroreflective sheeting at least 3 inches wide around the perimeter of a standard warning sign. This may be accomplished by affixing the standard warning sign on a background that is 6 inches larger than the size of the standard warning sign.

G. Adding a warning beacon (see Section 4L.03) to a standard regulatory (other than a STOP or a Speed Limit sign), warning, or guide sign.

H. Adding a speed limit sign beacon (see Section 4L.04) to a standard Speed Limit sign.

I. Adding a stop beacon (see Section 4L.05) to a STOP sign.

J. Adding light emitting diode (LED) units within the symbol or legend of a sign or border of a standard regulatory, warning, or guide sign, as provided in Section 2A.07.

K. Adding a strip of retroreflective material to the sign support in compliance with the provisions of Section 2A.21.

L. Using other methods that are specifically allowed for certain signs as described elsewhere in this Manual.


02 Sign conspicuity improvements can also be achieved by removing non-essential and illegal signs from the right-of-way (see Section 1A.08), and by relocating signs to provide better spacing.


03 The NEW plaque (see Section 2C.62) shall not be used alone.

04 Strobe lights shall not be used to enhance the conspicuity of highway signs.

The NYS Supplement provides the sizes that are allowed. They can be either red or orange and in sizes of 12x12 or 18x18. The sign plaque number is NYW7-15 and can be found on page 247 of the NYS Supplement. You can refer to, or download, the NYS Supplement.

There is always the concern that the excess use of these type flags will diminish the reaction you would want from drivers, and therefore result in the user ignoring them. It is recommended that prior to installing additional enhancements, review the existing conditions such as the proper sign size, placement, condition, and visibility.

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