California Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices

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California Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices
California Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices, 2014 Edition, Revision 8.pdf
The 2014 edition, the latest published to date
AuthorsCalifornia Department of Transportation
CountryUnited States
PublisherCalifornia Department of Transportation
Publication date
2006; 18 years ago (2006)
TextCalifornia Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices online

The California Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (abbreviated CA MUTCD) is the standard for traffic signs, road surface markings, and traffic signals in the U.S. state of California. It is developed by the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) Division of Safety Programs "in substantial conformance to" the national Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices developed by the Federal Highway Administration. The first edition of the CA MUTCD was published in 2006, replacing an earlier supplement to the national MUTCD. The most recent edition was published in 2014, incorporating the 2009 edition of the national MUTCD. California is one of ten states that publish their own editions of the MUTCD.[1] The CA MUTCD defines the content and placement of traffic signs. Design specifications are detailed on a section of the Caltrans website that is based on the national Standard Highway Signs and Markings (SHSM) document.


California is the only state that retains the nonrectangular U.S. Route shield, which was used nationally until 1961.

In 1952, the California Department of Public Works Division of Highways published a Planning Manual of Instructions. A traffic manual was added to the planning manual in 1955.[2]

In 1969, the California State Legislature deleted all the provisions of the California Vehicle Code that explicitly specified standards for traffic control devices, making the Division of Highways the sole agency responsible for enacting traffic standards in the state in consultation with the California Traffic Control Devices Committee.[3]

In 1972, the traffic manual became a standalone document, titled simply Traffic Manual. A metric version was published in 1996 by the then-renamed Department of Transportation's Division of Traffic Operations.[2]

The iconic "immigration sign" was coded as W54 in the 1990s.

In 2000, Caltrans and the California Traffic Control Devices Committee undertook an effort to reconcile the Traffic Manual with the national MUTCD. In 2004, these efforts resulted in the adoption of the 2003 edition of the national MUTCD along with a California supplement,[2] which replaced various chapters of the 1996 Traffic Manual pertaining to traffic signs and signals.[4]

In 2006, Caltrans once again published its own standard as the CA MUTCD to incorporate the supplement's guidance into the main text of the standard. Subsequent editions were published in 2010, 2012, and 2014. Caltrans made nearly annual revisions to the document from then through at least 2024.[2]

Legal authority

California Vehicle Code section 21400 provides for Caltrans to adopt a state-specific edition of the MUTCD. Section 21401 legally requires all traffic control devices on streets and highways to conform to these standards. Therefore, the manual is used by state, county, and municipal highway departments, as well as by private construction firms, to ensure that the traffic control devices they use conform to the state standard. Some parts of the national MUTCD have not been incorporated into the CA MUTCD. Where there is a conflict between the two standards, the CA MUTCD takes precedence within California.[3] Several Caltrans-specific signs also appear in the California Driver Handbook, the driver's education handbook published by the California Department of Motor Vehicles in 13 languages.[5]


The CA MUTCD is developed by Caltrans in consultation with the California Traffic Control Devices Committee (CTCDC) and other stakeholder agencies. The CTCDC is the successor to the California State Sign Committee, which was originally responsible for highway signage from 1933 to 1947.[3] The ten-member committee consists of representatives designated by Caltrans, the League of California Cities, the County Engineers Association of California, the Automobile Club of Southern California, AAA Northern California, Nevada & Utah, and the California Highway Patrol.[6]


In California, guide signs are laid out horizontally with a consistent height. Pull-through signs are used instead of diagrammatic signs.[7]

The CA MUTCD and sign specifications are organized similarly to the MUTCD and SHSM, respectively. Each of the California sign specifications is assigned an alphanumeric designation and organized according to the same series found in the SHSM. The sign designation for a state-specific sign includes a "(CA)" after the sign number. The CA MUTCD also defines some state-specific series:[8]

  • Series G: California Guide
  • Series SG: California Special Guide
  • Series S: California Special Information
  • Series SC: California Special Temporary Traffic Control
  • Series SR: California Special Regulation
  • Series SW: California Special Warning


  1. ^ "MUTCDs & Traffic Control Devices Information by State". Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices. Federal Highway Administration. July 14, 2020. Retrieved January 11, 2021.
  2. ^ a b c d "Foreword & Introduction" (PDF). California Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (PDF) (2014 ed.). Sacramento, California: California Department of Transportation. March 10, 2021. pp. 48–49. Retrieved June 28, 2021.
  3. ^ a b c "History" (PDF). California Traffic Control Devices Committee. September 25, 2019. Retrieved June 28, 2021.
  4. ^ "MUTCD and California MUTCD". California Active Transportation Safety Information Pages. Berkeley, California: UC Berkeley Safe Transportation Research and Education Center. Retrieved June 28, 2021.
  5. ^ "Traffic Signs". California Driver Handbook. Sacramento, California: California Department of Motor Vehicles. 2021. Retrieved May 7, 2022.
  6. ^ "CTCDC brochure" (PDF). California Traffic Control Devices Committee. May 12, 2021. Retrieved June 28, 2021.
  7. ^ Somers, Richard A.; Hawkins, H. Gene, Jr.; Jasek, Debbie; Urbanik, Thomas II (September 1996). "An evaluation of guide signing at right multilane freeway exits with optional lanes" (PDF). Bryan, Texas: Texas A&M Transportation Institute. pp. 29–37.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  8. ^ "California Sign Specification Drawings". California Department of Transportation. 2021. Retrieved June 28, 2021.

External links