Safety: Drivers, Pedestrians… and Yours

Even though contractors are usually hired to construct or maintain a pavement, there’s another, more crucial, step on which they can offer guidance and that is safety. The safety of pedestrians and drivers should be of paramount importance and as with other regulations such as the Americans with Disabilities Act, it’s important to rely on a contractor who knows the regulations and can provide what you need.

Safety on Roads

Pavement marking, signage and traffic control in general is governed by the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD), which sets minimum standards for traffic control and safety throughout the country. Developed over the years by traffic control professionals and organizations “to provide safer, more efficient travel” on the country’s roads, the MUTCD is administered by the Federal Highway Administration and is updated as needed to account for new technology, traffic control tools or traffic management techniques.

Any materials put down or signage installed on roads must comply with MUTCD guidelines, which cover a broad variety of situations and requirements, including marking material color for specific circumstances, line width, retroreflectivity requirements (the ability of a sign or marking to reflect back to a driver), signage, crosswalk measurements and more.

MUTCD specifications are included in, for example, signage or pavement marking bids, and contractors must know and understand the specs to bid the work and complete the job per the guidelines.

Safety on Parking Lots

While traffic is moving at a much slower pace and traffic volume is significantly lower on parking lots, the addition of pedestrians, public transportation vehicles, and service or delivery trucks complicates safety issues. And where roads are generally straight until off-ramps or intersections, parking lots can have row upon row of parking stalls and it’s important to make clear to drivers through signs and pavement markings how to navigate what can look like a labyrinth. It’s also important to make clear to pedestrians the safe routes they can walk to and from their vehicle.

Here are some tips to consider regarding safety in parking lots:

For new construction, engineering plans often indicate which pavement markings go where. Ask your contractor to look these plans over prior to applying markings to make sure the traffic flow makes sense, gets vehicles in, through and out of the parking lot easily, and is generally safe. Architects and engineers who develop these plans think they know how traffic should flow – but often they don’t. This doesn’t mean their plans aren’t going to be correct – just that you’re better off getting a second opinion from someone who installs markings for a living before the paint is put down.

For restriping, don’t be afraid to reevaluate the layout and traffic flow of your parking lot. This is a perfect opportunity to look back at any complaints, traffic or pedestrian accidents, ADA compliance and other layout issues that can be easily fixed following an overlay or a new coat of sealer. Your contractor can tweak or completely redesign your parking layout if need be.

Liability Protection for You

In addition to providing a safe parking lot for drivers and pedestrians, proper and timely installation of signs and pavement markings can go a long way in protecting you from liability issues resulting from accidents. Injured parties who can claim markings or signage were confusing (or faded and difficult to see) can cost thousands in liability payments – and result in increased insurance premiums for you. To protect yourself from frivolous lawsuits:

Install all pavement markings and signage before opening your property to the public following new construction, an asphalt overlay or sealcoating.

Restripe your parking lot regularly. How often varies depending on your climate, traffic and type of marking material, but it’s much less costly to restripe than to settle a liability lawsuit and pay the increased insurance premiums.

Conduct a sign inventory regularly. Do this at least once a year but more often if you have concerns. Oftentimes property managers don’t know they have sign issues until it’s too late. If, for example, a garbage truck clips and bends a sign, making it unreadable to drivers and pedestrians, that sign needs to be replaced. The same is true of signs damaged by accidents or even vandalism. By conducting a regular sign inventory, noting the location of each sign and each type of sign, you can make sure signage is replaced in a timely manner.

Enlist the aid of service contractors who are on your property regularly – landscapers or sweepers, for example. Because they are on your property regularly they are an extra set of eyes that can let you know when something is amiss, whether it’s a damaged sign or faded striping.

Replace signs after accidents.

Replace signs that have become faded or that aren’t easy to see at night.

Use MUTCD-approved signage. According to the MUTCD website, “Owners of private roads open to public travel, such as those in shopping centers, theme parks, airports, sports arenas, and the like, also rely on the MUTCD to assure that road users invited to travel on their roads see messages consistent with those on public roads.” There are plenty of signs available that are less expensive, but they are often smaller, different colors and less reflective than MUTCD-approved signs.

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