Road Sign

Signs are important fixtures that help advance roadway safety every day throughout the United States. Today, a variety of symbols, shapes and colors are used to convey messages to users on and around the roadways. Signs types include traffic, roadway, warning, railroad, guide, recreational, temporary, regulatory, pedestrian and bicycle.

There are many benefits to using symbols, which include immediate communication with all roadway users and their ability to break language barriers. Colors can communicate approaching scenarios such as using orange to indicate an upcoming work zone or red for an upcoming stop or yielding point. A number of shapes are also used to indicate oncoming situations or to provide roadway users with information such as octagons for stop and long horizontal, rectangular signs displaying guidance information.

Today, traffic signs are being looped into the world of autonomous driving technology. Research efforts are being made to equip traffic signs with technology, like embedded machine-readable codes, to allow them to communicate with Connected Automated Vehicles (CAVs) and other mapping devices.

ATSSA has dedicated group of members on its Sign Committee (member login required), who work to:

  • Enhance members’ businesses by increasing their understanding of traffic control devices on private property,
  • Influence the present and future direction of Minimum Retroreflectivity Standards,
  • Inform and educate roadway safety industry members on sign industry-related matters,
  • Provide knowledge and education about signing retroreflectivity,
  • Work to have dedicated funds identified and available for sign management systems and the implementation of upgraded programs to conform with MRS,
  • Monitor and influence the development of a new MUTCD chapter on changeable message signs, and
  • Improve upon and solicit greater committee member participation in Sign Committee meetings and on task forces, including recruitment of new committee members.


ATSSA looks to greenlight Traffic Signals Committee at Midyear Meeting
Erica Terrini

ATSSA looks to greenlight Traffic Signals Committee at Midyear Meeting

New venture will further cement association’s involvement in the roadway safety infrastructure industry

ATSSA's board of directors recently approved the formation of a Traffic Signals Unit as a membership unit category within the association earlier this year at the March board meeting.

According to ATSSA Vice President of Member Services Donna Clark, this new venture is extremely beneficial for ATSSA, as these products will be involved in Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS), Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CAVs), pedestrian and bicyclist safety, and more sectors within the roadway safety industry.
Clark placed a heavy emphasis on having representation and connections with manufacturers and installers of traffic signals as they relate to CAVs.

"As CAV technology advances, it will be extremely beneficial to speak with one voice by representing all traffic safety devices, roadside infrastructure, pavement markings, and all things that relate to roadway safety," Clark said. "The only way to properly and advantageously do that is to be uniform and truly speak for the entire roadway safety industry."

Additionally, Clark said becoming involved with the traffic signal segment of the roadway safety industry will be advantageous for providing commentary for the new edition of the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD), which the Deputy Administrator of the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) Brandye Hendrickson announced at ATSSA's Legislative Briefing & Fly-In that her administration would be releasing a Notice of Proposed Amendments (NPAs) this upcoming fall.

“Following Hendrickson’s announcement earlier this spring, our industry has sped up its pace to develop and provide commentary and suggestions to update the MUTCD in 2020,” said Senior Technical Advisor Eric Perry. “One particular area of interest in making those changes revolves around highway automation. ATSSA’s new establishment of a traffic signals group will be very impactful in the overall process, as we expand our focus to all traffic devices as they relate to CAVs and roadway safety and infrastructure overall.”

CAV Program Manager of McCain Inc. Mike Schagrin, who conducted a webinar in June for ATSSA and spoke about the significant safety benefits of real-time communication between vehicles and traffic signal systems, said as devices and vehicles progress technologically, a major component for consideration is integration and communication.
“Situational awareness is key to safer driving and communicating real-time traffic signal information to drivers and vehicles is fundamental to a safer connected and autonomous vehicle future.”

According to Schagrin, besides the significant safety benefits of connected vehicles and infrastructure, there are tremendous operational benefits as well. Using the same technology, signal systems can be responsive to priority requests from first responders, transit vehicles, and vehicle platoons. Signal timing could be optimized to the traffic conditions as they exist throughout the road network – a foundation for smart city transportation.

Schagrin said agencies are already becoming more familiar with the connected infrastructure technology, referencing the Signal Phase and Timing (SPaT) Challenge. The initiative challenges local and state transportation infrastructure owners and operators to deploy short range communication technology so the traffic signals can communicate with equipped vehicles. To date, 26 states have stepped up to the challenge.

“As ATSSA begins to tap into this sector of the roadway safety industry, the association will be better prepared for integrated systems but especially new technologies that relate to CAVs and connected infrastructure.”

At ATSSA's Midyear Meeting on Aug. 21-23, association members will be forming a Traffic Signals Committee that will focus on issues and innovations related to these devices. For more information, contact Clark at

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