National Academies Releases Nighttime Overhead Signage Luminance Levels

The National Academies Press has issued an 80-page report entitled “Guidelines for Nighttime Overhead Sign Visibility.” It includes a chart that’s headlined “Luminance Levels for Overhead Signs.” It lists five different visual complexity levels, ranging from a dark rural area to a commercial downtown district. It then suggests minimum luminance levels in terms of candelas per square foot and square meter. The suggested brightness levels at the most complex setting are 10 times higher than for the rural setting.

You can download the entire report at https://www.nap.edu/download/23512

Texas/Pennsylvania DOT Studies Says Clearview Font Improves Sign Legibility

A study conducted jointly by the Texas and Pennsylvania Departments of Transportation concluded that the Clearview font increased the visibility distance for drives by 12% versus the existing Series E Modified font.

In 1994 the Federal Highway Administration determined that highway signs were no longer visible enough for a population that included older drivers. Over the next decade, the Clearview font was developed. Subsequently, the Texas and Pennsylvania DOTs conducted separate studies to see how effective the Clearview font was.

The full report on this font can be found at http://onlinepubs.trb.org/onlinepubs/trnews/trnews243RPO.pdf

The Signage Foundation Inc. becomes the Sign Research Foundation

The Sign Research Foundation (SRF), formerly The Signage Foundation, has a new name, look and website (www.signresearch.org), but it will continue its mission of empowering communities through research on vibrant and effective sign strategies, systems and codes.

“The new name better aligns with our mission of focusing on research into signs,” said Sapna Budev, SRF’s executive director. “We will expand our work in bringing together academicians, influencers and the industry to develop and promote stronger communities.”

The new website hosts the SRF’s latest sponsored research, and icons on the website facilitate finding research under myriad topics: best practices, design, illumination, legal, placemaking, safety, sign codes, value of signs and wayfinding. Additionally, all of the research is listed alphabetically by title. All of the peer-reviewed research is available free of charge.

SRF will host its annual National Signage Research & Education Conference (NSREC) April 19 at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center in Las Vegas, and co-locate with the International Sign Association’s Sign Expo. Academicians will present current research, SRF’s research projects for 2017 will be outlined. This year’s NSREC will focus on the future of signage and anticipate how signs must adapt to function in the cities of the future.

What’s the Economic Difference Between a Perpendicular Doubled-faced and Single-faced Sign?

When a Pier 1 Imports store opened in Germantown, TN (a suburb of Memphis), in 1991, it was granted a permit for a sign that faced west-bound traffic. However, no signage was visible to west-bound traffic. A few months after the store’s opening, sales were 25% below projections, despite typical promotions, advertising and direct mailings.

Pier 1 subsequently surveyed 200 shoppers through a market-research firm about having a second sign. The responses were the following.

Are the signs helpful to you? 66% said “very helpful;” 31.5% said “somewhat helpful,” and 2.5% said “not at all helpful.”

Does the sign increase public safety? 93% said yes; 75 said no.

Does the sign affect aesthetics negatively? 91% said no; 5.5% said yes, and 2.5% had no opinion.

Is the sign more of a public benefit or a public nuisance? 90.5% said benefit; 5.5% said nuisance, and 4.5% had no opinion.

Expert appraisal determined that the gross annual income for the store would be $1.2 million with the second sign, and $1,020,000 without it. Store officials stated that overhead and the cost of merchandise being sold was $1,020,000 so, without the second sign, the store would generate no profit.

As for the community itself, Pier 1 estimated that, without the second sign, it would pay, city, county and state taxes of $76,080. With the second sign and increased sales, it would pay $104,229. Thus the tax-revenue difference for the town would be $28,000.  Presented with this evidence, Germantown officials readily granted a variance for the second sign. The full story about this variance appeared in the April 1992 issue of Signs of the Times magazine.

Texas A&M Studies EMCs and Traffic Accidents

In 2012, Texas A&M University’s Texas Transportation Institute conducted a study to see if EMCs cause traffic accidents. Research included data from the FHWA’s own Highway Safety Information System (HSIS),a comprehensive database of crash records from several states. They identified 135 cites in which EMCs had recently been erected. Researchers used the empirical Bayes method to perform a before-after statistical analysis of the safety impacts of what was called the on-premise digital signs.

The research team used digital-sign installation information provided by sign manufacturers to identify locations in selected states where digital signs had been installed in the 2006–2007 time frame (this time frame was selected to provide adequate numbers of crashes in both the before and after periods).

HSIS data was studied two years before and two years after the on-premise digital signs were installed. For example, if a sign was installed in 2006, the “before” period was calendar years 2004 and 2005, and the “after” period was calendar years 2007 and 2008. The surveyed area was 528 ft. (0.1 miles) before and after the signs. HSIS data was available for California, North Carolina, Ohio and Washington.

The researchers wrote: “The results of this study provide scientifically based data that indicate that the installation of digital on-premise signs does not lead to a statistically significant increase in crashes on major roads. The overall results show that there is no statistically significant increase in crash frequency after installing the on‐premise digital sign. Based on the analysis performed for this research effort, the authors are able to conclude that there is no statistically significant evidence that the installation of on-premise signs at the locations evaluated in this research led to an increase in crashes.”

For the full report, go to http://www.thesignagefoundation.org/Library.aspx.

Also, to read about the Federal Highway Administration’s study of EMCs and traffic accidents, go to:

https://fasi.squarespace.com/config#/pages|/rhetorical/2016/4/15/electronic-message-centers-dont-cause-traffic-accidents

Do Electronic Message Centers Cause Traffic Accidents?

Subjective statements often suggest that electronic message centers (EMCs) cause traffic accidents because they are distracting. Yet, is there any empirical evidence that documents this theory?

No.

In 1980, the Federal Highway Administration published its “Safety and Environmental Design Considerations in the Use of Commercial Electronic Variable-Message Signs” study, which was hugely inconclusive. It conducted the study to support its theory that electronic signage (with changeable messages) caused traffic accidents, but couldn’t generate supporting data.

In March 2011, the FHWA released a study entitled “Driver Visual Behavior in the Presence of Commercial Electronic Variable Message Signs (CEVMS)”, which is another name for EMCs. Two tests were each conducted in Reading, PA and Richmond, VA. It also showed no evidence that electronic billboards cause accidents, as indicated by the following:

-The presence of digital billboards did not appear to be related to a decrease in looking toward the road ahead.

-According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), safety concerns arise when a driver’s eyes are diverted from the roadway by glances that continue for more than 2.0 seconds.

-The longest fixation to a digital billboard was 1.34 seconds, and to a standard billboard, it was 1.28 seconds, well below the accepted standard.

-When comparing the gaze at a CEVMS versus a standard billboard, the drivers in this study were generally more likely to gaze at a CEVMS than at standard billboards.

– The FHWA study adds to the knowledge base but does not “present definitive answers” to the questions investigated.

The study states: “In general, drivers devoted more glances at CEVMS than at standard billboards; however, there were no significant decreases in the proportion of time spent looking at the road ahead (i.e., eyes on the road) that could be directly attributed the CEVMS at the measured luminance and contrast levels.”

Glances away from the forward roadway of greater than 2 seconds or 1.6 seconds’ duration have been proposed as indicators of increased risk of crashes. In the current experiments, there were no long glances at billboards meeting or exceeding 1.6 seconds. The longest glance at a target billboard was less than 1.3 seconds in both studies. Glances with a duration of 1 second or greater were rare: there were 5 in Reading (0.47% of the glances to CEVMS) and 7 in Richmond (0.78% of the glances to CEVMS). All of the glances greater than 1 seconds were to CEVMS.

The full study can be viewed at https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/real_estate/oac/visual_behavior_report/review/cevms2.pdf

A shorter article about its highlights can be found at http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/STMG/sott_201403/index.php#/44

Additionally, Texas A&M specifically studied EMCs and “before” and “after” traffic-accident data in 2012. For that full story, go to https://fasi.squarespace.com/config#/pages/570bae5cd210b89ef1a6a42a|/universitiesblog

Similarly, in 2010, Tantala Associates, a consulting/engineering firm, conducted its fourth study about the relationship between traffic accidents and electronic signage on billboards. Most recently, Tantala examined eight years of law-enforcement records that documented 35,000 traffic accidents on state and local roads around Reading, PA, to determine accident rates near 26 digital billboards. For the first time, the Empirical Bayes Method predictive tool was used to determine if accidents near digital billboards are inconsistent with what is statistically predicted. The answer: Digital billboards are “safety neutral.”

In 2008, Tantala investigated more than 60,000 traffic accidents in Cuyahoga County (Cleveland) Ohio for an eight-year period, before and after EMC billboards were installed. Accidents in the county, as a whole, had decreased in the last four years. Accidents where digital billboards were visible also decreased.

In Rochester, NY, Tantala reviewed police records documenting 18,000 traffic accidents that occurred within a mile of digital billboards over a five-year period, and in Albuquerque, it reviewed police records documenting traffic accidents that occurred within a mile of 17 digital billboards over a seven-year period. The studies showed no statistical correlation between digital billboards and accidents.

The January 7, 2014 edition of The Hill, a Washington, DC newspaper, included the following:

“Drivers are not distracted by digital billboards alongside roads, according to a study conducted by the Dept. of Transportation. The study, which was released by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), found that drivers are not any more likely to be distracted by digital billboards than stationary signs.

‘On average, the drivers in this study devoted between 73% and 85% of their visual attention to the road ahead for both (CEVMS) and standard billboards,” the study said. “The range is consistent with earlier field-research studies. In the present study, the presence of CEVMS did not appear to be related to a decrease in looking toward the road ahead’.”