A Retroreflective Sheeting Selection Technique for Nighttime Drivers' Needs
Paulus, Susan C.
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In this thesis, the author developed a retroreflective sheeting selection technique for traffic signs. Previous research was used to determine the luminance needed by drivers (demand luminance). The author used roadways scenarios to determine the amount of luminance the retroreflective sheeting on a sign would produce (supply luminance). A spreadsheet was developed to determine the performance of different retroreflective sheeting types by comparing the demand and supply luminance for specific roadway scenarios. Using the results of previous studies, three demand luminance levels were created: replacement, adequate, and desirable. The replacement level represents the level of luminance when a sign needs to be replaced and is 2.5 cd/m2. The adequate level is the recommended amount of luminance when installing new traffic signs and is 10 cd/m2. The desirable level is the approximate level when additional luminance has diminishing returns and is 30 cd/m2. Supply luminance on a specific traffic sign was determined by evaluating roadway geometries, sign placement, retroreflective sheeting type and vehicle data. The author reviewed roadway geometries in Texas to estimate typical number of lanes, shoulder widths and horizontal curvature in the US. Sign placement from the MUTCD determined the typical lateral placements, sign heights, and sign twists. Vehicle data included vehicle dimensions and headlamp type. Both the supply and demand luminance were determined for a specific viewing distance for a given scenario. The viewing distance is the distance a driver needs to read or recognize a sign to respond properly. In addition, the type of sign, alphanumeric or symbol, determined how this distance was calculated. The author developed four sign groups to calculate the distance required to read and respond to a traffic sign, including 1) Stop required, 2) Reduction in speed required, 3) Read the message provided, and 4) Change of lane required. For symbol signs, the minimum required visibility distance (MRVD) was determined for the sign group and for text signs, the viewing distance at a legibility index (LI) of 30 ft/in was found. At these distances, the author calculated the supply luminance and then compared it to the demand luminance levels to determine the performance level. The author developed the Retroreflective Sheeting Selection Spreadsheet (RSSS) to allow others to use the methodology presented in this thesis. RSSS allows users to input the roadway data, vehicle data, and sign data. RSSS takes this information and looks up the supply luminance for the scenario. RSSS then compares the supply luminance to the demand luminance levels and outputs the retroreflective sheeting performance level for the scenario.