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Who Uses the MUTCD? And How?

Probably many more folks in more diverse professions than you might imagine. And they use the information for very different reasons! Here's how.

In the public sector, the most obvious MUTCD users are the State and local transportation planners and traffic engineers who design our roads and locate the traffic control devices that help drivers navigate them safely. There are the public works department employees who must understand how to install and maintain the traffic control devices. The engineers and planners work closely with Federal FHWA Division Office personnel who interpret and clarify MUTCD standards for their State and local partners. The FHWA also conducts extensive materials research, often in cooperation with the private sector designers and developers, to improve the effectiveness and visibility of traffic control devices.

Owners of private roads open to public travel, such as those in shopping centers, theme parks, airports, sports arenas, and the like, also rely on the MUTCD to assure that road users invited to travel on their roads see messages consistent with those on public roads.

In the private sector, the construction and engineering contractors who in fact design and build the roads that we all travel each day rely on the MUTCD. There are businesses whose employees design, test, manufacture, and market traffic control devices that road managers apply and install.

Organizations with completely different charters and constituents depend on the MUTCD. For example, law enforcement personnel rely on the MUTCD as they monitor driver behavior and investigate traffic incidents. The insurance and legal communities frequently refer to the MUTCD when investigating claims or proceeding with legal activities that arise from traffic-related incidents.

The MUTCD is a valuable reference tool for the media. Design and engineering students rely on it for their academic work. Also, a variety of professional and safety organizations, whose members represent the various stakeholders, consult the MUTCD for information used in their materials, for training courses and workshops, or for rulemaking recommendations, and when providing technical assistance.

Click here to view links to some of the professional organizations that use the MUTCD in their activities.

States' Adoption of the National MUTCD

It is interesting to note that the MUTCD is the national standard in all facets of using traffic control devices, but State transportation agencies differ in how they comply with MUTCD standards. For example, some States adopt the national MUTCD as their standard. Other States adopt the national MUTCD along with a State supplement that might prescribe which of several allowable options are selected for the State's specific purposes. Still other States use the national MUTCD as the basis for developing their own State Traffic Control Device manuals, which must be in substantial conformance with the national MUTCD.

When a new edition or revision of the national MUTCD is issued, States have two years to adopt it, with or without a State supplement, or to adopt a State MUTCD that is in substantial conformance with the new edition of the National MUTCD. For the 2009 edition, the date by which adoption by the States was required was January 15, 2012.

Most of the States that have State MUTCDs or Supplements make them available electronically on their web sites. To search for State Information to find links to other State traffic control device policy and design documents and drawings, please visit the MUTCDs & Traffic Control Devices Information by State web page.