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"The challenge for engineering professionals is to engineer out as many decisions for the motorist as possible," says one railroad safety expert.

While Operation Lifesaver's role is primarily to promote education, engineering is one of the important three E's of rail traffic safety. We support and encourage the kinds of continued engineering research and innovation responsible for having greatly improved the safety of America's railroad crossings because whenever two modes of transportation share the same section of roadway, as they do at highway-rail grade crossings, the possibility for a collision exists. Engineering technologies play a critical role in helping minimize and reduce those collision risks.

Traffic control at highway-rail grade crossings includes signs, signals, pavement markings, or other warning devices designed to help manage traffic flow and reduce risk. The familiar crossbuck is a warning to on-coming traffic of a highway-rail grade crossing and of the motorist's responsibility to yield if a train is approaching. Flashing red lights at a gated crossing provide clear warning of an approaching train and require the motorist to stop. Complying with the traffic control devices at highway-rail grade crossings can make the difference between life and death.

A need for uniform standards for traffic signs and signals developed with the advent of automobiles in the early 1900's. The Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) establishes standards that public agencies and private railroads follow for properly marking highway-rail grade crossings. 

The National Committee on Uniform Traffic Control Devices, more specifically its Technical Committee on Railroad and Light Rail Transit, are the experts whose purpose is to assist the Federal Highway Administration in the development of standards and practices to regulate, warn and guide traffic. Qualified professionals with diverse backgrounds and viewpoints meet regularly, exchanging information on the current state of research and technology in order to develop detailed recommendations for upgrading the MUTCD.

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The Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD)

The Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) is approved by the Federal Highway Administrator as the National Standard in accordance with Title 23 U.S. Code, Sections 109(d), 114(a), 217, 315, and 402(a), 23 CFR 655, and 49 CFR 1.48(b)(8), 1.48(b)(33), and 1.48(c)(2).

(For more information, see highway-rail crossings standards.)