Title page for ETD etd-09222000-12010036

Type of Document Master's Thesis
Author Anders, Richard Lee
Author's Email Address randers@vt.edu
URN etd-09222000-12010036
Title On-Road Investigation of Fluorescent Sign Colors to Improve Conspicuity
Degree Master of Science
Department Industrial and Systems Engineering
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Dingus, Thomas A. Committee Chair
Barfield, Woodrow S. Committee Member
Neale, Vicki L. Committee Member
  • Conspicuity
  • Visibility
  • Fluorescent signs
  • Age-related factors
  • Fluorescent yellow-green
  • Readability
  • Retroreflective signs
Date of Defense 2000-08-09
Availability unrestricted
On-Road Investigation of Fluorescent Sign Colors to Improve Conspicuity


Richard Lee Anders


This thesis documents Phase III of a research program undertaken by the Virginia Transportation Research Council and the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute in cooperation with the 3M Company and the Virginia Department of Transportation for the evaluation of visual performance of retroreflective signs of various color combinations. Phase I was an off-road field experiment conducted to determine the best sign color combination, letter stroke width, and letter size for the emergency sign. Based upon the results of Phase I, three color combinations were chosen for testing (black on coral, black on light blue, and yellow on purple) against a baseline color combination of black on orange.

Phase II was conducted using an instrumented vehicle through a construction zone-related detour. Questionnaire data were also obtained. The independent variables of interest were sign color combination, age, and visibility condition. The findings of Phase II indicated that use of a color combination other than the traditional black on orange sign would improve driver performance and safety when used for trailblazing during critical incidents, especially when the incident route overlaps a work zone detour.

A serious limitation of Phases I and II is that the use of fluorescent colors was not evaluated. Anecdotal evidence suggests that the use of fluorescent colors on signs improves their conspicuity. The purpose of Phase III was to evaluate fluorescent sign color combinations for incident management trailblazing purposes. This study consisted of an on-road investigation using an instrumented vehicle over a 12.2-mile route in urban and rural areas of Montgomery County, Virginia. The following conclusions were made:

* A non-fluorescent yellow on non-fluorescent purple sign is least preferred by both older and younger drivers when compared to the other sign color combinations employed in this study.

* Both younger and older drivers have a preference for a black on fluorescent yellow-green sign.

* Fewer late braking maneuvers and fewer turn errors were recorded during daytime conditions than during nighttime conditions.

* Older drivers tended to register more late braking maneuvers than did younger drivers.

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