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How federal regulations impact signs on your private property

All traffic signs, pavement markings and other traffic control devices are now required to conform to the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) for the public traveling on private property.

Effective January 16, 2007, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) amended the United States Code (U.S.C.) to clarify the applicability of the MUTCD to ANY road open to public travel. That includes privately owned property where the public travels.

Examples are:

  • Shopping centers
  • Office parks
  • Apartment complexes
  • Recreation facilities


Property owners and managers need to understand the implications and risks associated with this law, and what to do to keep their customers safe while traveling on their property.

Frequently Asked Questions…

Q. What is the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices?

A. The Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) is recognized as the national standard for all traffic control devices installed on any street, highway or bicycle trail open to public travel in accordance with 23 U.S.C. 109(d) and 402(a). It is incorporated by reference in 23 Code of Federal Regulation (CFR), Part 655 Subpart F.

Q. Why does the manual suddenly apply to the private property that I own or manage?

A. The manual has applied to “all roads open to public travel” for some time. This update by FHWA just clarifies that certain areas such as shopping centers, office and apartment complexes and sports facilities are “roads open to public travel” within the intent of the law. Substantial safety benefits result from providing road users with consistent, uniform messages no matter where they travel.

Q. What does this law cover?

A. The law applies to “traffic control devices” and safety features on your property. Common examples of traffic control devices that are covered include signs such as STOP, YIELD, SPEED LIMIT and RIGHT or LEFT TURN ONLY markings such as STOP bars and directional arrows.

Q. How long do I have to comply with this law?

A. The FWHA issued an effective date of Jan. 16, 2007. States have two years from the effective date to adopt the change. It is probably best to start thinking about which non-compliant traffic control devices should be replaced now.

Q. What happen if I don’t comply?

A. If you don’t comply with the law then you risk exposure to tort liability if someone is injured or worse yet loses their life on your property. More importantly, good modern signage promote safety, reflects positively on the property owner and is more inviting to the public. It can help minimize insurance costs and maintain a safer environment.

Q. Can you give me examples of traffic control devices that don’t comply with the law?

A. Here are some examples that we have seen.

Signs that are the wrong color such as a green stop sign. Stop signs are required to be red with white lettering and an octagonal shape.

Signs that are mounted at the wrong height such as four feet from the ground. The manual requires signs to be mounted at seven feet in urban areas and five feet in rural areas.

Speed limits that do not conform such as 14 miles per hour. The manual requires that all speed limits be in 5 miles per hour increments.

Markings that are the wrong color such as yellow or red stop bars at stop signs. The manual requires that these bars are white.

Q. You said that a sign must be “retroreflective.” What does that mean?

A. “Retroreflective” means the ability of a material to return light to its source. In order to appear bright to our eyes at night, signs must be either directly illuminated or have “retroreflective” surfaces so that almost all of the light striking them from our vehicle headlights is reflected back to the driver’s eyes.

Expert advice and assistance in complying with the new federal regulations.

Ensure that your private property is compliant with the new federal regulations on traffic control devices with PIP Signworks Traffic Systems. As one of the country’s largest providers of traffic safety products and services, we have the proven expertise to protect life on the road.

PIP Signworks is proud to work with 3M to provide a full line of products for traffic control and guidance systems. PIP Signworks can fabricate any sign that you need including regulatory, warning, street name and guide signs. All signs are made to comply with MUTCD requirements.

Contact PIP Signworks today to assist you in selecting federally approved signs and other traffic control devices. We can also provide sign installations with all the equipment you need including posts and hardware. Please call 407-847-5565 to discuss your sign needs or visit