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Controlling Traffic with Cones, Barricades and More

11/25/22

Traffic safety products warn drivers, redirect vehicles around hazards, create temporary lanes, separate pedestrian and vehicle traffic and prevent access to areas that are off-limits. They can help enhance safety on highways, sidewalks, warehouses and jobsites.

To improve visibility in low-light situations, many traffic control products and signs have retro-reflective bands or panels that reflect the headlights of oncoming vehicles. Reflective material comes in several grades:

  • Engineer-grade reflectors are the least visible. They meet ASTM D4956 Type I standards and are suitable for low-traffic areas.
  • High intensity prismatic (HIP) reflective bands are brighter and meet ATSM Type III and IV standards for light-traffic areas.
  • Diamond-grade reflectors return the most light, meeting the highest ATSM Type IX standards and making them visible at the longest distances.

Traffic control devices on roadways must meet federal standards outlined in the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD). Some states have supplements to the federal MUTCD that offer more specificity, while others have developed their own MUTCDs based on the federal requirements. More details on MUTCD requirements by state can be found here. In general, non-MUTCD products are intended for use in parking lots, job sites, or pedestrian areas.  

Going beyond these general features, different traffic control solutions have distinct advantages and are suitable for different purposes.

Traffic Cones

Portable, durable and inexpensive, compact to store and easy to deploy, cones are the workhorse of traffic control. They're stable and omnidirectional, so you spend less time finding the optimal placement.

Cones can be outfitted with solar or battery powered lights for improved visibility, or linked with bars, belts or bright yellow tape to create a continuous line that clearly marks off a construction zone’s boundary. They can also carry signs with specific safety messages, like “Sidewalk Closed” or “Wet Paint.”

For daytime on slower roads (40 mph or below), 18-inch cones without reflective bands are appropriate.

For roads with higher speeds (45 mph or above), and for all roads when it's dark outside, cones should be at least 28 inches tall and have reflective bands for visibility.

Cones designed for roadway use are bright orange, while cones for walkways and workplaces come in a variety of colors. Slim cones are narrower at their base for worksites where space is at a premium.

Cone weight is another consideration: lighter cones are easier to carry and set up, while heavier cones are more stable, less likely to be blown over. 

Traffic Barrels and Drums

Significantly wider than cones, traffic barrels and drums are more visible to high-speed traffic.

Like cones, barrels are stackable for storage and simple to set up, and they can also be outfitted with flashing lights or linked with barricade tape to create a continuous barrier.

Delineator Posts

These narrow, post-style barricades are ideal for creating temporary traffic lanes.

Their height makes them easily visible, while a narrow footprint makes them suitable for dividing traffic lanes.

They can be temporarily deployed on a wide flat base or permanently anchored into the pavement.

Channelizer Cones

Designed for dividing temporary lanes, channelizer cones have a narrow footprint without sacrificing height.

They're ideal for work sites and other places where space is limited, and they can temporarily separate traffic lanes.

Traffic Barricades

Collapsible frames hold reflective crossbeams to create highly visible traffic barricades.

Some styles fold flat, while others have detachable legs.

Type 1 barricades have one reflective rail, while type 2 barricades have two.

Traffic Paddles, Flags and Batons

Designed for directing traffic by hand, "stop/slow" paddle signs are often used to control temporary lane closures.

Bright orange LED batons and flags can help workers direct the flow of traffic. 

Safety Flares

Super bright LED lights or an intense red flame are sure to get drivers’ attention.

Safety flares pack small, so they can be carried as part of a roadside emergency kit and deployed on a moment’s notice.

Pavement Markers and Tape

When you need more nighttime visibility than paint can provide, pavement markers and tape incorporate reflective materials that are highly conspicuous in drivers’ headlights.

They can be temporarily or permanently installed on the pavement.

Roadway and Utility Markers 

These tall reflective posts are used to mark the edges of roadways.

They identify hazards like fire hydrants that could be buried beneath snow drifts.

Speed Bumps and Rumble Strips

Speed bumps force traffic to slow for pedestrian safety. 

Rumble strips create a noise and vibration in the vehicle to alert drivers to an upcoming hazard.

Parking Curbs

These 4-inch-tall barriers keep vehicles from hitting building corners or driving onto pedestrian walkways.

Parking curbs are commonly used in parking garages to protect fixtures like doors, air conditioning units and building columns, and to prevent cars from running into obstacles.

Safety and Security Mirrors

Wide-angle mirrors can allow drivers to see around obstructions at blind intersections, alleys and hidden driveways.

They’re also used in warehouses to help forklift drivers check for workers before pulling out of narrow areas.

ADA Warning Pads

These textured panels are mounted on asphalt or concrete to alert visually impaired pedestrians of an approaching crosswalk.

ADA warning pads have bumps with a unique truncated dome design that creates an unmistakable sound when touched with a guidance cane.

Trench Covers

Trench covers can be temporarily deployed to allow light vehicles or pedestrians to safely cross cuts in the pavement up to 35 inches wide.

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The information contained in this article is intended for general information purposes only and is based on information available as of the initial date of publication. No representation is made that the information or references are complete or remain current. This article is not a substitute for review of current applicable government regulations, industry standards, or other standards specific to your business and/or activities and should not be construed as legal advice or opinion. Readers with specific questions should refer to the applicable standards or consult with an attorney.