Friday Fun with Traffic Control Devices

The California Department of Transportation (“CALTRANS”) uses a compilation of regulations called the California Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (“MUTCD”) for various traffic events.

How is this relevant to your life?

For starters, these are the people responsible for every official sign you encounter on the road throughout the Golden State. Specifically, speed limit signage. So for those stretches of parkway you may encounter in Suburbia, Home, Suburbia, look no further than CALTRANS and their fabulous book of regs for guidance.

I know what you’re thinking – this story is a ginormous yawn – why exactly should you care about some silly manual that doesn’t factor into your life on any meaningful level?

I’m glad you asked!

The average driver probably won’t care about the significance of the MUTCD unless and until he receives a traffic citation. And we all know that traffic citations only go to those scofflaws who fully deserve it because tickets are all about safety.

Well… Not quite, Virginia.

You see, the MUTCD is what spells out the guidelines for something called an engineering and traffic survey. You probably haven’t heard of this thing either, but that’s OK. All you need to know is that this particular survey is how speed limits are determined.

During your travels, you may have noticed a rather self-important looking lad alongside or in the road peering into something atop a tripod resembling a camera. But you’d be incorrect if you thought he was on location to shoot new footage for the latest “reality” based television show.

What these people are actually doing is conducting an engineering survey of the traffic so they can report back their findings to the mothership, laws can then be passed and appropriate signages placed accordingly.

Sometimes the speed limit jibes with the engineering and traffic survey, and sometimes, as in the case with a speed trap, the county will have CALTRANS post a speed limit that is so preposterously low it will ensure that a good 85th percentile of drivers will be ticketed for speeding.

You can spot a speed trap rather easily – Just look for that beautiful stretch of open road posted with two different speed limits within a short distance of the other.

The first speed limit sign will be something around 50mph, and, the second, located a short 150-200FT away will be an inexplicably decreased limit somewhere along the lines of say, 35mph.

Another tip off to a speed trap is that absolutely nobody pays attention to either posted limit until the end of/beginning of the month when your friendly neighborhood law enforcement officer will be hanging out alongside the shoulder, most likely concealed behind an obstruction of some sort, harvesting his monthly quota of arbitrarily assessed tax revenue for the county with his stylishly sleek laser toy.

If you bother to contest the ticket, then the MUTCD will be your first step.

Bruce knows how it is.

©2009 Peyton Farquhar™ and Prattle On, Boyo™. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Peyton Farquhar and Prattle On, Boyo with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


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