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Road signs

Read in USA Today yesterday (Oct 22) that the feds are requiring all states to change their road signs to capital letters combined with small letters, in a specified font, or risk the loss of federal highway funds.

In NH the roadsigns typically have all caps in, I belive, helvetica or ariel. It’s very easy to see, even with my old eyes. Why, other than being out of control, would a federal agency do this, especially in a time when state budgets are all struggling?

Any thoughts?

Apologies, folks, this was supposed to post in the General Discussion forum. Apparently I was unsuccessful in getting it there.

Have to disagree. Maryland just replaced their signs on I-95 near Baltimore. My wife can read them MUCH better now. She (and many other drivers) do not have perfect vision and sometimes need help reading signs. Add this to an aging population and it makes a lot of sense to replace them.

I guess I’m more bothered by the mandate than the actual sign replacement. States and towns are struggling right now, many on the verge of bankruptcy, and it seems that he money could be better spent on other issues like road and bridge maintenance or even line painting or lighting. These are IMHO much better safety expendatures from a tight budget than new signs.

I personally, however find all caps to be easier to read than a combination of caps and small case letters. I’d be interested to hear from others on their opinions.

I was beside myself when I saw this on the local news. I can see enforcing a new standard on NEW signs but to have to replace existing signage? Out of their minds!!! Especially since we don’t have enough money to fix BRIDGES let alone pave potholed roads. Don’t get me started on the asphalt experimentation they’re doing in MA. 95 is already coming apart less than 2 years after they repaved it. MORONS!

Since the day of the Big Dig groundbreaking I’ve been watching with dismay the roads in Mass, especially in and around Boston, begin to crumble while billions were dumped into that hole in the ground. It’s a true tragedy.

But this sign mandate is, IMHO, simply, completely idiotic. Federal regulatory agencies don’t seem to understand that of money is to be spent on their mandate it has to be diverted from something else, and in the case of this mandate it’ll be highway funds, likely maintenance. They’re highly myopic.

I occasionally work with some “human factors” folks in my job. Studies have shown that the brain recognizes words partly by their overall shape in mixed case, so this is easier to read for most people, including me.

I do agree that replacing signs that are in good shape right now isn’t the best use of money, although I wouldn’t mind seeing some older, beat-up signs replaced under this initiative.

Are we sure this is a full blown mandate to change all signs now? B/c this is what I read:

[i]"The Federal Highway Administration wants cities such as Peachtree City to eventually change all of their street signs to mixed-case lettering. However, existing signs can remain until they are no longer usable.

Mark Casper, the public services director for Peachtree City, said, “Right now we’re doing it as part of routine maintenance program. We regularly go out and replace a sign either because it’s been vandalized or degraded, so we have to replace the street sign.”[/i]

That doesn’t say “go out and change all of the signs now” - it just says that when you need to replace a sign use mixed case.

I believe you will shortly like the new signs.  Take a look at your news paper.  Look at books etc.  The proper use of case and font makes for easier reading rather it is in a book of on a sign.  Really.  There has been a lot of studies and they all come out the same.  Proper case, spacing font etc makes for much easier reading.

Point made. You are correct.

Nomatter if I like the signs, whatever happened to the 10th amendment? You know,
“The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.”?

The withholding of our tax dollars (that is, after all, what federal highway funds actually are) in order to force us to do things that are not law is not what the forefathers envisioned. As a matter of fact, the tenth amendment was specifically written to prevent the federal government from assuming powers not granted to it by the constitution, which is exactly what’s happening today.

This requirement is not a recommendation. like the ones used by states and municipalipties to write their building codes. This is an unfunded and unlegislated mandate.

Yup, I’m a constitutionalist. It isn’t the font that bothers me so much as the mandate.

At least the signs will be in words and not symbols. In the university where I teach, the library has symbols instead of words for the signs for the restrooms and the snack bar area. I’ve never figured out why people who can’t read would be in a library. The federal government still gives us credit for being literate.

Some of the stores around here have signs on the outside doors with the international disabled symbol that say “if you need assistance please ask an associate” and no other way for a disabled person to open the door. This is on the OUTSIDE of the building. Are they supposed to yell through the glass?

Marshalls in Bedford, you know who you are…

Sorry but this is such a lame arguement. That ship sailed so long ago it is way out in the ocean. I’ve heard that arguement for leaving septic systems in disrepair, not wanting to fund schools, libraries, and every other public endeavor. Some people just don’t think government should do anything, including regulate food safety. Government has the responsibility and authority to regulate commerce and other issues for the public good and prosperity. If it was up to the states some would have no signs and others like South Dakota would still use their hand painted wood signs.

Well, later I came across another story that said the feds wanted a 10 year max and that local govts are worried about the budget implications. The devil is always in the details. Someone would probably need to actually read whatever official pronouncements the feds put out.

My brother’s this big anti-govt guy. But he won’t drink Mexican beer. No FDA he says. And I’m saying - aren’t you the no government regulation guy? He doesn’t have a sensible answer for that - just says something about rat pee.

This is not immediate. Plans for replacement aren’t due until 2012, then ground mounted signs by 2015 and overheads by 2018. I would think many of the signs, through normal wear and tear, would be replaced by that time anyway. Withholding Federal road funding is nothing new. This is how they’ve made the states comply for a long time.

Standards are a good thing when you’re driving through states. You always see the same type of signs no matter what state you’re in. This is not a bad thing.

"…he won’t drink Mexican beer.

If it’s sold in the US, it has to meet US requirements. And may I suggest Negra Modelo beer. It’s my favorite Mexican quaff. IIRC, you live in DC - no problem finding Negra Modelo. You can even get it in restaurants in Beltsville and Laurel. Then again, they are big Latino neighborhoods, like the Adams Morgan area of DC.

I have yet to meet a Mexican beer I don’t like - the Negro Modelo is among my faves. And I know it has to meet the requirements. But as you know, there’s just no talking to some people once their mind is made up - at least about some things.

Aside from the big government angle, the science is sound. It takes longer for a reader to comprehend simple fonts and case combinations than more difficult combinations.

for example is a sentence with no puntuation easier to read in lower case
it might be if you read sentences that way all your life but you haven’t


You (hopefully) spend just a a half-second or so reading a road sign before you not only read it but understand what it means. Mandating a standard form for all road signs will save lives if only because the change will reduce the average time required to understand the message, not just read it.