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Sign retro-reflectivity requirements upgraded

May 21, 2011
By DAVE WERNER - Franklin County Traffic Safety Board ( , Adirondack Daily Enterprise

At the April meeting of the Franklin County Traffic Safety Board, the new federal mandates for retroreflectivity were explained to the Board and to a large number of town and village highway superintendents that were invited to this important meeting. Mr. Martin Percy, Regional Traffic Engineer for Region 7 of the NYS DOT presented the new requirements.

Retroreflectivity is the property of a device or surface to reflect light back to its source with a minimum scattering of light. It is important that road signs have the ability to reflect the light from a vehicle's headlights back to the driver in order for him/her to properly see the sign. Signs that do not have proper retroreflectivity may be easy to read in daylight but nearly impossible to read at night. Thus the regulations for highway signs throughout the US have been tightened to insure that these signs are easy to read at night as well as during the day.

The essential parts of the new requirements are as follows:

By Jan. 22, 2012, public agencies or officials having jurisdiction shall use an assessment or management method that is designed to maintain sign retroreflectivity at or above minimum levels

The compliance date for meeting the minimum retro-reflectivity requirements on regulatory, warning, and ground-mounted guide signs is January 2015.

For overhead guide signs and street name signs, the compliance date is January 2018.

Signs that are exempt signs from the new regulations include Parking/Standing/No Stopping signs, Walking/Hitchhiking, Adopt-A-Highway, signs with blue or brown backgrounds, and signs used on facilities that are for the exclusive use of bicycles or pedestrians.

These new requirements will undoubtedly cause extra expenses for all municipalities. Road and highway signs are not cheap. Furthermore, retroreflectivity on all signs deteriorates over time, and these new regulations will insure that they are replaced in a timely manner. However, it is for the safety of the motoring public. How tragic it would be to go through a stop sign because the sign had lost its retroreflectivity and was missed by a motorist at night. Signs control traffic movement safely, but we need to be able to see them.


This and all previous Did You Know articles may be found on the Franklin County website at



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