From OpenStreetMap Wiki
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Typical MUTCD-compliant signs, signals, and pavement markings

The Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) is a standard for road signs, signals, and markings that is developed by the United States Federal Highway Administration. Every U.S. state conforms to either the federal MUTCD or a state-specific standard that is in "substantial conformance" with the federal MUTCD. Additionally, other countries such as Canada and New Zealand have adopted significant aspects of the MUTCD in their national and regional standards.

The MUTCD defines the content and placement of road signs. Design specifications are detailed in a separate document, Standard Highway Signs and Markings (SHSD). Separate design charts and specifications also accompany state MUTCDs. Transportation departments may update these documents at different times than the MUTCD. The latest edition of the MUTCD was published in December 2023.

Usage in OpenStreetMap

In the U.S., a traffic sign is mapped as a node node tagged traffic_sign=US:Z1-2, where "US" is the country's ISO 3166 code and Z1-2 is the sign's alphanumeric designation. A state-specific sign is tagged traffic_sign=US:XY:Z1-2, where XY is the postal abbreviation of the state whose MUTCD standard specifies the sign.

MUTCD signs are available in a preset collection and style for JOSM.

Mapillary incorporates a variety of MUTCD signs into its traffic sign detection layer as miniature icons. These icons are available on GitHub in SVG format under the MIT license. KartaView maintains a similar icon set also under the MIT license.

Sign designations

Each standard sign or plaque in the MUTCD and SHSD is assigned an alphanumeric designation and organized by series. A sign designation follows this format:

MUTCD R9-3bPL.svg
Category Series Sign Variant Position Orientation
R 9 - 3 b P L
Regulatory Bicycles and Pedestrians‎ No Pedestrian Crossing Use Crosswalk Plaque Left


  • The series is omitted in smaller categories.
  • The variant is a way to group signs that differ stylistically but perform the same function.
  • A "P" denotes a plaque that cannot be used on its own and can only appear in a sign assembly.
  • Orientation-dependent signs, such as those that bear an arrow to one side, are denoted "L" for left, "C" for center, "R" for right, "H" for horizontal, or "V" for vertical.

Signs by series

The following pages contain a correspondence between MUTCD signs and their most likely tagging in OpenStreetMap:

  • Series D – Destination and Distance
  • Series E – Exit Signs
  • Series EM – Emergency Management and Civil Defense Signs
  • Series G – Work Zone
  • Series I – General Information Signs
  • Series M – Marker Signs
  • Series OM – Object Marker
  • Series R – Regulatory Signs
  • Series RS – Recreational and Cultural Interest Area Symbol Signs
  • Series S – School Signs
  • Series W – Warning Signs including:
    • Temporary Traffic Control Zone Warning Signs
    • Incident Management Signs

Unless otherwise specified, apply the suggested tags to whatever the sign refers to, which is typically not at the precise location of the sign itself. Optionally, you can also map the sign itself as a traffic_sign=* node.


Map showing state adoption of the 2009 MUTCD:
     Adopted MUTCD      Adopted MUTCD with state supplement      Adopted state MUTCD

The national MUTCD standard is not applied uniformly nationwide. Several states substitute their own state-level MUTCD standards, and many other states supplement the MUTCD with state standards. Regardless, in a given state, most sign codes match the national standard. State-specific sign codes represent at most a small fraction of the signs in a given state, except in California, where signs have not been systematically renumbered to conform to the national standard, and in Puerto Rico, where any text on a sign is translated into Spanish.

State MUTCDs and SHSDs:

State supplements:

State ad-hoc sign listings:

Federal department supplements:

Local highway departments with their own codified sign systems:

Road markings

Main article: /Markings

Traffic signals

Main article: /Signals

See also

Notes and references

  1. Search for "signing". Not every signing policy has been assigned a sign code.
  2. See standards numbered with an "SG-" prefix.

Further reading

External links