Saying Farewell to Clearview Highway Signs

They will not be approved for use on public roads after Feb. 23, but the signs won't have to be removed until they reach the end of their useful life, FHWA Administrator Gregory G. Nadeau reported.

Since 2004, the Federal Highway Administration has conditionally approved the use of Clearview, an experimental font, on highway signs used on public roads. But such signs will no longer be approved for use on public roads after Feb. 23, Gregory G. Nadeau, the administrator of the Federal Highway Administration, noted in a Feb. 4 post on the DOT Fast Lane blog.

Explaining that the agency seeks uniformity, so a Stop sign in California looks the same as one in Maine, Nadeau wrote that research initially gave DOT hope that Clearview would make signs easier to read from greater distances and at night, but years of additional research have disproved that. "Early successes we noted were credited to the new font, but the years since have shown those successes were likely due, at least in part, to the fact that older, worn signs had been replaced with new, cleaner ones using brighter materials. After more than a decade of analysis, we learned that retro-reflective sign sheeting materials that direct a vehicle’s headlamp beams back to the observer were the primary determining factor in improved nighttime visibility and legibility," he explained. "Among other things, we also learned that Clearview compromises the legibility of signs in negative-contrast color orientations, such as those with black letters on white or yellow backgrounds like Speed Limit and Warning signs."

So FHWA has concluded there is no practical benefit to the public in continuing to pursue Clearview, so it will no longer support it.

"Importantly, this action in no way requires that states go out and start removing signs using Clearview," he added. "Let me emphasize: this action does not mandate removal or installation of any signs. Instead, once signs using Clearview reach the end of their useful life, they will be replaced with new highway signs that feature approved fonts from the Standard Alphabets – known as 'Highway Gothic.'"

"Safety is our top priority, and it will remain so. Whether guardrails, pavement markings, the placement of highway signs, or even the font on them, we are constantly studying ways to improve the safety of the driving public," Nadeau wrote. "Of course, conscientious drivers continue to be the most important safety feature on America’s roads. As winter weather continues to challenge much of the country, please drive safely, avoid using your cell phone or other devices while driving, buckle up, and be mindful of other drivers."

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