New York State Local Technical Assistance Program

What signs should we replace first?

Proper signage is important to the communication of the rules and regulations of the road to the road users. There are three classifications of signs that are defined by their function in Section 2A.05 of the MUTCD:

1. Regulatory signs give notice of traffic laws or regulations (Colors are typically: White on Red, Black on White)

2. Warning signs give notice of a situation that might not be readily apparent. (Colors are typically: Black on Yellow)

3. Guide signs show route designations, destinations, directions, distances, services, points of interest, and other geographical, recreational, or cultural information.

Replacement of signs should be based on several factors including how critical is the sign and its condition. A scheduled replacement plan is the best approach to replace signs BEFORE they deteriorate to where they no longer meet the minimum levels of retroreflectivity in the MUTCD.

Through regular inspection, signs can be identified as missing, blocked by vegetation, or damaged; and a visual assessment can identify signs that are not communicating he proper message.

Section 2A.08, paragraph 2, of the MUTCD states that “Public agencies or officials having jurisdiction shall use an assessment or management method that is designed to maintain sign retroreflectivity at or above the minimum levels found in Table 2A-3”.

In some cases, signs fall or are damaged. The replacement/repair of many Regulatory (Stop and Yield) and critical Warning signs (Curves and turns, and some intersection signs for example) should be made as soon as possible. Some agencies have policies to repair or replace these signs within 24-hours of notification or the next business day.

The lack of, or missing, signs, such as STOP and YIELD signs or certain critical warning signs can result in serious crashes and add liability to the agency. Other Warning signs inform the public of situations that may not be expected and should be replaced as soon as possible. Guide signs are generally not as critical and should be replaced when possible.


Maintaining Sign Retroreflectivity Tech Tip (pdf)

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This work by the Cornell Local Roads Program (CLRP) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.