The effects of damage on sign visibility: An assist in traffic sign replacement

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Traffic signs often convey critical information to drivers. To ensure visibility in nighttime or low light conditions, traffic signs must be in compliance with the minimum retroreflectivity standards outlined by the manual on uniform traffic control devices (MUTCD). Among all of the assessment methods (visual nighttime inspection, retroreflectivity measurement) and management methods (expected life, blanket replacement, and control signs) outlined in the MUTCD, expected sign life has been the most selected by agencies for maintaining compliance. In current literature, little research exists with regard to schedule sign replacement, focusing rather on the current favorite predictor, sign age. However, after collecting data on 1683 in-service traffic signs across the state of Utah, this study primarily concluded that not only sign age, but other contributing factors affect sign retroreflective performance. Aiming to determine the effects of various damage forms on sign retroreflectivity, statistical methods, including regression models, chi-square test, t-test, and odds ratio were employed to analyze traffic sign data. At the conclusion, the strong association between damage and retroreflectivity compliance of traffic signs was evident. In addition, to identify more critical damage forms, the effects of various forms on traffic sign retroreflectivity were compared. These conclusions provide insight to inform transportation agencies in the development of sign management plans and schedule sign replacement.

Traffic sign retroreflectivity, Nighttime visibility, Sign damage, Handheld retroreflectometer