Legal Update on Plans Required on Reflectivity of Signs
The deadline to establish a sign assessment or management plan to maintain minimum levels of sign retroreflectivity for regulatory & warning traffic signs in each municipality is quickly approaching. The Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD), issued by the Federal Highway Administration, introduced new requirements regarding the retroreflectivity of signs, originally requiring each municipality to establish the sign assessment or management plan by January 2012. That deadline has been extended to June 13, 2014.
Municipalities were originally required to replace all signs that did not meet the minimum standards for retroreflectivity by June 13, 2014; however, the Federal Highway Administration has decreased the burden and is now requiring only that a sign assessment or management program be in place by that date.
Municipalities can choose a method to assess and monitor sign retroreflectivity depending on the number of signs within its jurisdiction, manpower, and its budget. The MUTCD offers compliance methods, or a combination of methods, including: visual nighttime inspection, measuring retroreflectivity using a retroreflectometer, replacement after expected sign life, blanket replacements, and the use of control signs.
Sign assessment and management plans are important to keep drivers safe by ensuring sign visibility during both daytime and nighttime conditions, but having a plan in place can also help minimize the municipality’s risk of liability exposure.
Situations involving a vehicle crash that may be attributed to deficient or noncompliant traffic control devices can result in tort liability imposed on the municipality.
By establishing and implementing a proper and appropriate sign assessment or management method, municipalities can reduce the risk of liability by maintaining traffic signs at or above the minimum standards mandated by the MUTCD. Accordingly, a municipality with an appropriate plan will be better suited to defend against tort claims based on inadequate sign retroreflectivity.
Work closely with your solicitor and engineer to get the appropriate plan in place and to keep track of upcoming deadlines to comply with the other sections of the MUTCD.