Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Signs of the Times: Larger, Brighter Signs Encouraged to Help Older Drivers

Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Signs of the Times: Larger, Brighter Signs Encouraged to Help Older Drivers

Article excerpt

In August 2011, the Federal Highway Administration eliminated the 2018 deadline on a mandate that would have required municipalities nationwide to replace all existing street signs. New signs would need to meet more stringent font and reflectivity standards. For many towns, the unfunded mandate would have been "devastating"--replacing all street signs is already no small task, and the new materials would have represented a staggering expenditure in already beleaguered towns. One New Jersey township estimated the cost at $82,481 for the simplest signage option.

Towns and counties across the country issued a collective sigh of relief when the FHWA eliminated the Bush administration deadline. The underlying reason for the mandate, however, still looms large: By 2030, there will be an estimated 72.1 million persons 65 and older in the U.S.--two times the number of older persons in 2000. There are already signs of this dramatic population shift: according to 2003 FHWA data, there are 26 states where older drivers represent over 15 percent of the total drivers. With an aging Baby Boomer population, making street signs bright, large, and readable will go a long way toward making the streets that bisect our nation's towns--and municipal parks--safer for drivers, pedestrians, and cyclists.

As a driver ages, changes in vision--and night vision in particular--greatly affect the distance at which drivers can take note of signs. This distance is especially critical given the attendant decline in reaction time with age. …

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