The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has announced this month (October 2018) that it is pursuing an update to the “Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices for Streets and Highways” — the MUTCD — in preparation for the future of automated vehicles and to afford states and local communities with more opportunities to utilize innovation.
Excerpt: “The new manual will be forward-looking in accommodating technologies necessary to support highway connectivity, automation and innovations that improve safety and efficiency,” Deputy Federal Highway Administrator Brandye L. Hendrickson said. “The revised edition will lay the groundwork for supporting the infrastructure of the future.”
There can be no doubt that this is good news, however there has been no mention of an existing, significant flaw in the current edition of the MUTCD which is the continued inclusion of many text-based signs rather than image-based alternatives (see the above photograph).
The move away from words on signs to pictograms was promoted at least as far back as 1949 when the United Nations attempted to get all nations to adopt the same signs around the world so that foreign visitors or residents who do not speak a country’s mother tongue could still understand the signs and therefore drive more safely.
Then there’s also the question of the adequacy and accuracy of signs.
For the sake of improved safety on America’s roads, we can only hope that the FHWA takes this opportunity to recommend to the 50 states that no further avoidable text signs are erected and that existing ones, together with decrepit signs, are replaced by new, image-based signs as a matter of expediency.
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