Part 1 Signs
Chapter 2A. General
Section 2A.01 Function and Purpose of Signs
01 This Manual contains Standards, Guidance, and Options for the signing of all types of highways, and private roads open to public travel (see definition in Section 1A.13). The function of signs are to provide regulations, warnings, and guidance information for road users. Words, symbols, and arrows are used to convey the emssages. Signs are not typically used to confirm rules of the road.
Detailed sign requirements are located in the following Chapters of Part 2:
Chapter 2B — Regulatory Signs, Barricades, and Gates
Chapter 2C — Warning Signs and Object Markers
Chapter 2D — Guide Signs for Conventional Roads
Chapter 2E — Guide Signs for Freeways and Expressways
Chapter 2F — Toll Road Signs
Chapter 2G — Preferential and Managed Lane Signs
Chapter 2H — General Information Signs
Chapter 2I — General Service Signs
Chapter 2J — Specific Service (Logo) Signs
Chapter 2K — Tourist-Oriented Directional Signs
Chapter 2L — Changeable Message Signs
Chapter 2M — Recreational and Cultural Interest Area Signs
Chapter 2N — Emergency Management Signs
02 Because the requirements and standards for signs depend on the particular type of highway upon
which they are to be used, the definitions for freeway, expressway, conventional road, and special purpose road given in Section 1A.13 shall apply in Part 2.
Section 2A.02 Definitions
04 Definitions and acronyms that are applicable to signs are given in Sections 1A.13 and 1A.14.
Section 2A.03 Standardization of Application
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05 Each standard sign shall be displayed only for the specific purpose as prescribed in this Manual. Determination of the particular signs to be applied to a specific condition shall be made in accordance with the provisions set forth in Part 2. Before any new highway, private road open to public travel (see definition in Section 1A.13), detour, or temporary route is opened to public travel, all necessary signs shall be in place. Signs required by road conditions or restrictions shall be removed when those conditions cease to exist or the restrictions are withdrawn.
Section 2A.04 Excessive Use of Signs
01 Regulatory and warning signs should be used conservatively because these signs, if used to excess, tend to lose their effectiveness. If used, route signs and directional guide signs should be used frequently because their use promotes efficient operations by keeping road users informed of their location.
02 Sign information overload occurs when the frequency of signing, complexity of messages or diversity of messages is so great that they cannot be readily assimilated by motorists in time to respond properly and safely to roadway situations. Sign information overload can be avoided by:
- Increasing the spacing between signs so that they can be understood before encountering new messages.
- Minimizing content and using accepted symbols so as to simplify messages.
- Spreading the information so that each element of stand-alone information is presented in a separate sign.
- Using standard sign formats applied in a consistent fashion to enhance motorist recognition.
- Using redundant signing or a combination of signing and pavement messages to offer multiple opportunities for motorists to recognize and respond to the situation.
- Reducing or eliminating less-essential signs.
03 See ITE’s Traffic Control Devices Handbook, Chapter 2 for more information on this topic. See Section 1A.11 for information regarding this publication.
Section 2A.05 Classification of Signs
01 Signs shall be defined by their function as follows:
- Regulatory signs give notice of traffic laws or regulations.
- Warning signs give notice of a situation that might not be readily apparent.
- Guide signs show route designations, destinations, directions, distances, services, points of interest, and other geographical, recreational, or cultural information.
01a a In California, prior to the adoption of Federal Highway Administration’s Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) on May 20, 2004, signs were classified into four categories, the fourth category being Construction signs. In general, Construction signs are Warning, Regulatory or Guide signs. Hence, this categorical classification is deleted for Construction signs in California and as per the MUTCD only the three basic categories are recognized. Construction signs are now included in Part 6.
02 Object markers are defined in Section 2C.63.
Section 2A.06 Design of Signs
01 This Manual shows many typical standard signs and object markers approved for use on streets, highways, bikeways, and pedestrian crossings.
02 In the specifications for individual signs and object markers, the general appearance of the legend, color, and size are shown in the accompanying tables and illustrations, and are not always detailed in the text.
03 Detailed drawings of standard signs, object markers, alphabets, symbols, and arrows (see Figure 2D-2) are shown in the “Standard Highway Signs and Markings” book. Section 1A.11 contains information regarding how to obtain this publication.
04 The basic requirements of a sign are that it be legible to those for whom it is intended and that it be understandable in time to permit a proper response. Desirable attributes include:
- High visibility by day and night; and
- High legibility (adequately sized letters, symbols, or arrows, and a short legend for quick comprehension by a road user approaching a sign).
05 Standardized colors and shapes are specified so that the several classes of traffic signs can be promptly recognized. Simplicity and uniformity in design, position, and application are important.
06 The term legend shall include all word messages and symbol and arrow designs that are intended to convey specific meanings.
07 Uniformity in design shall include shape, color, dimensions, legends, borders, and illumination or retroreflectivity.
08 Standardization of these designs does not preclude further improvement by minor changes in the proportion or orientation of symbols, width of borders, or layout of word messages, but all shapes and colors shall be as indicated.
09 All symbols shall be unmistakably similar to, or mirror images of, the adopted symbol signs, all of which are shown in the “Standard Highway Signs and Markings” book (see Section 1A.11). Symbols and colors shall not be modified unless otherwise provided in this Manual. All symbols and colors for signs not shown in the “Standard Highway Signs and Markings” book shall follow the procedures for experimentation and change described in Section 1A.10.
10 Although the standard design of symbol signs cannot be modified, the orientation of the symbol may be changed to better reflect the direction of travel, if appropriate.
11 Where a standard word message is applicable, the wording shall be as provided in this Manual.
12 In situations where word messages are required other than those provided in this Manual, the signs shall be of the same shape and color as standard signs of the same functional type.
State and local highway agencies Caltrans may develop special word message signs in situations where roadway conditions make it necessary to provide road users with additional regulatory, warning, or guidance information, such as when road users need to be notified of special regulations or warned about a situation that might not be readily apparent. Unlike colors that have not been assigned or symbols that have not been approved for signs, new word message signs may be used without the need for experimentation.
13a Except as noted in the Option below, highway agencies shall not develop word message signs. In accordance with CVC Section 21401, only word message signs conforming to Caltrans standards and specifications shall be placed on streets and highways.
13b Local agencies may develop place/facility name or day, date, time portion of the word message on signs to notify road users of special events/circumstances or to warn road users of a situation that might not be readily apparent. Unlike symbol signs and colors, these place/facility name or day, date, time modified word message signs may be used without the need for experimentation.
13c Sign design details are contained in FHWA᾿s “Standard Highway Signs and Markings” book and Caltrans’ California Sign Specifications. Signs other than those shown in these publications, the MUTCD or this California MUTCD may be required under special conditions. See Section 1A.11 for information regarding these publications.
14 Except as provided in Paragraph 16 and except for the Carpool Information (D12-2) sign (see Section 2I.11), Internet addresses and e-mail addresses, including domain names and uniform resource locators (URL), shall not be displayed on any sign, supplemental plaque, sign panel (including logo sign panels on Specific Service signs), or changeable message sign.
15 Unless otherwise provided in this Manual for a specific sign, and except as provided in Paragraph 16, telephone numbers of more than four characters should not be displayed on any sign, supplemental plaque, sign panel (including logo sign panels on specific service signs), or changeable message sign.
16 Internet addresses, e-mail addresses, or telephone numbers with more than four characters may be displayed on signs, supplemental plaques, sign panels, and changeable message signs that are intended for viewing only by pedestrians, bicyclists, occupants of parked vehicles, or drivers of vehicles on low-speed roadways where engineering judgment indicates that an area is available for drivers to stop out of the traffic flow to read the message.
17 Pictographs (see definition in Section 1A.13) shall not be displayed on signs except as specifically provided in this Manual. Pictographs shall be simple, dignified, and devoid of any advertising. When used to represent a political jurisdiction (such as a State, county, or municipal corporation) the pictograph shall be the official designation adopted by the jurisdiction. When used to represent a college or university, the pictograph shall be the official seal adopted by the institution. Pictorial representations of university or college programs shall not be permitted to be displayed on a sign.
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Section 2A.09 Shapes
01 Particular shapes, as shown in Table 2A-4, shall be used exclusively for specific signs or series of signs, unless otherwise provided in the text discussion in this Manual for a particular sign or class of signs.
Section 2A.10 Sign Colors
01 The colors to be used on standard signs and their specific use on these signs shall be as provided in the applicable Sections of this Manual. The color coordinates and values shall be as described in 23 CFR, Part 655, Subpart F, Appendix.
02 As a quick reference, common uses of sign colors are shown in Table
2A-5 2A-5(CA). Color schemes on specific signs are shown in the illustrations located in each appropriate Chapter.
03 Whenever white is specified in this Manual or in the “Standard Highway Signs and Markings&rdquoi; book (see Section 1A.11) as a color, it is understood to include silver-colored retroreflective coatings or elements that reflect white light.
04 The colors coral and light blue are being reserved for uses that will be determined in the future by the Federal Highway Administration.
05 Information regarding color coding of destinations on guide signs, including community wayfinding signs, is contained in Chapter 2D.
05a The fluorescent version of red, yellow, green or orange colors provide higher conspicuity than the standard colors, especially during twilight.
06 The approved fluorescent version of the standard red, yellow, green, or orange color may be used as an alternative to the corresponding standard color.
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Section 2A.12 Symbols
01 Symbol designs shall in all cases be unmistakably similar to those shown in this Manual, California MUTCD, California Sign Specifications and in the “Standard Highway Signs and Markings” book (see Section 1A.11).
02 New symbol designs are adopted by the Federal Highway Administration based on research evaluations to determine road user comprehension, sign conspicuity, and sign legibility.
02a Use of symbols to word messages is preferred. However, care needs to be taken so as not to mix the individual symbols.
03 Sometimes a change from word messages to symbols requires significant time for public education and transition. Therefore, this Manual sometimes includes the practice of using educational plaques to accompany new symbol signs.
04 New warning or regulatory symbol signs not readily recognizable by the public should be accompanied by an educational plaque.
05 Educational plaques may be left in place as long as they are in serviceable condition.
06 State and/or local highway agencies may conduct research studies to determine road user comprehension, sign conspicuity, and sign legibility.
07 Although most standard symbols are oriented facing left, mirror images of these symbols should be used where the reverse orientation might better convey to road users a direction of movement.
08 A symbol used for a given category of signs (regulatory, warning, or guide) shall not be used for a different category of signs, except as specifically authorized in this Manual.
09 Except as provided in Paragraph 11, a recreational and cultural interest area symbol (see Chapter 2M) shall not be used on streets or highways outside of recreational and cultural interest areas.
10 A recreational and cultural interest area guide sign symbol (see Chapter 2M) shall not be used on any regulatory or warning sign on any street, road, or highway.
11 A recreational and cultural interest area guide sign symbol (see Section 2M.04) may be used on a highway guide sign outside of a recreational and cultural interest area to supplement a comparable word message for which there is no approved symbol for that message in Chapters 2B through 2I or 2N
12 Section 2M.07 contains provisions for the use of recreational and cultural interest area symbols to indicate prohibited activities or items in non-road applications.
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