Wednesday, April 16, 2014

See the Light: Retroreflectivity Policy Deadline Nears

The light that is reflected back from the surface of a street sign, called “retroreflectivity” (RR for those in-the-know), can make the difference between safe travels and big tragedy on your city streets, especially at night.

To address the importance of visible signage, new federal and state regulations require cities to have a policy in place by June 13, 2014 for maintaining the retroreflectivity of their signs and replacing signs that are worn out.

What cities need to know
First off, cities do not need to have their signs tested and updated by the deadline, but they do need a plan in place to test and replace inadequate signage moving forward. Having a policy to address retroreflectivity will not only reduce a city’s potential liability, but it’s a smart safety move for protecting citizens.

Make sure your city has a policy to help drivers see the light.
“The concern is that an injured motorist or third party might be able to prove that the city’s failure to meet the sign RR requirements contributed to an accident,” says Chris Smith, an LMCIT risk management attorney. “Regardless of liability, I think it’s important that cities make sure their signs are visible. I think this is especially important as our cities age and we have more older drivers on the road who may have a more difficult time seeing signs.”

Some small cities may be under the impression that they do not need to comply with the new sign RR requirements, but that is not the case.  If your city maintains roads open to public travel, this applies to you. Implementing an RR policy without a city engineering staff may be challenging, but your city council and staff will need to take on the project regardless and give some careful consideration to how to go about choosing one of the many methods available. Citizen volunteers may even be able to help with visual inspections when manpower is scarce, suggests Smith.

A guide to getting started
Want more? A new memo on sign retroflectivity is now available to help you understand what is expected of cities and how to take the first steps. A model policy is included and has been designed to simplify the process of adopting an RR policy. Sound like a bright idea? Your city is just a few steps away from maintaining more visible, easier-to-navigate streets!

View the LMCIT Sign Retroreflectivity Memo and Model Policy

Have questions about RR that the memo can’t answer? Members can contact Chris Smith at (651) 281-1269 or

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