Beautiful Public Data: “Driving across America today, you will encounter a dizzying variety of cultures, landscapes, people and animals. But the one consistent thing that will stay the same from Maine to California are the signs you pass on the highway. And that is because America’s roads and highways have a big, fat style guide. First published in 1935, the Federal Highway Administration’s (FHWA) “Manual on Uniform Traffic Control” (MUTCD), is a hefty tome consisting of close to 900 pages that contains the federal standards for all traffic safety signs, roadway markings and other “traffic control devices” that a driver on a road in the U.S. might encounter. The MUTCD states that it “shall be recognized as the national standard for all traffic control devices installed on any street, highway, bikeway, or private road open to public travel”. Exact specifications for the font, size, spacing of letters, background colors, reflectivity, mounting location and orientation help ensure that traffic signs are consistently readable at a glance while driving anywhere in the U.S. The word “uniform” is key here, as you can only imagine the chaos if each state had its own version of stop signs, and safety warnings. But states do have some freedom in the signs that they use…”
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