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FHWA Announces Final Rule to Reduce Roadway Fatalities in Dark Conditions by Improving Visibility with Retroreflective Pavement Marking

| August 12, 2022

“This rule will save lives by helping those traveling see pavement markings more clearly and know what lies ahead, especially in darkness and other instances when visibility is critical.”

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) announced a final rule that will improve safety for all road users by ensuring that pavement markings are made more visible in dark or low light conditions.

Under the final rule, the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices for Streets and Highways (MUTCD) will provide a new minimum standard for pavement marking “retroreflectivity” effective September 6, 2022. Retroreflective material reflects light more effectively back to the observer, making pavement markings that include them brighter and more easily seen in dark conditions. The rule is also expected to help reduce crashes by enhancing the ability of advanced driver assistance and autonomous vehicle technologies to identify pavement markings more readily. 

“FHWA’s number one goal is to reduce highway fatalities and serious injuries wherever and whenever they occur,” Acting Federal Highway Administrator Stephanie Pollack said. “This rule will save lives by helping those traveling see pavement markings more clearly and know what lies ahead, especially in darkness and other instances when visibility is critical.”

The MUTCD, the national standard for traffic control devices used on all streets, highways, bikeways, and private roads open to public travel, currently requires that pavement markings be visible at night and that all markings on interstate highways be retroreflective but does not require a minimum level. By creating one, FHWA believes state and local transportation agencies can reduce the number of severe crashes that happen in dark, unlighted conditions and result in an annual nighttime fatality rate that is roughly three times the daytime fatality rate. 

The final rule also requires state and local agencies or officials to implement a method within four years for maintaining pavement marking retroreflectivity at or above minimum levels. Pavement marking improvements are also eligible for up to 100 percent Federal-aid funding. 

Today’s rule is the latest action taken by FHWA to reduce roadway fatalities and serious injuries as part of the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Roadway Safety Strategy unveiled earlier this year. A comprehensive update of the entire MUTCD is also required under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and work on that update, in the form of the 11th Edition of the MUTCD, is currently underway by FHWA and required to be completed by May 2023. The Retroreflective Pavement Markings final rule announced today (Revision 3 to the 2009 Edition of the MUTCD) will be included in the 11th Edition.

The FHWA Retroreflective Pavement Marking final rule can be read in the Federal Register.

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