On-Premise Commercial Signage Curbs Traffic Accidents
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Sign Expo 2017 - Las Vegas Nevada - April 20-22 Mandalay Bay


On-Premise Commercial Signage Curbs Traffic Accidents

Government research proves that signage helps drivers navigate unfamiliar roadways. Learn how to boost business while maintaining driver safety.

By Jennifer LeClaire

Need some help selling on-premise signage? Appeal to your customer’s community loyalty with research that demonstrates signage helps curb traffic accidents.

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  • You’re on your way to that new Italian restaurant that everyone is raving about. You know it’s somewhere along Main Street, but you aren’t sure of the exact address. What do you do? Look for the sign, of course.

    It’s a well-known fact that on-premise signs help drivers in unknown territories navigate the roadways with clear cues as to what lies ahead. But on-premise signage not only keeps you from having to pull over at the nearest gas station to ask for directions, these commercial guideposts can also keep you from getting rear ended by the harried driver behind you when you make that sudden turn into the restaurant’s parking lot.

    “We are all familiar with situations in which we are looking for a business, but because of restricted sign sizes, we cannot see them,” says Thomas Claus, director of government relations for the International Sign Association. “On-premise signage increases the amount of time a driver has to read, react and stop. This increases the safety of the roadway by decreasing erratic driver maneuvers.”

    Safety in signs
    Government studies have been conducted in attempts to prove that on-premise signage is unsafe, according to the Small Business Administration (SBA). But not one study has found that on-premise signage is linked to an increase in traffic accidents. Rather, the SBA reports that highway vehicle accidents actually decrease at intersections where there is commercial signage.

    That’s because drivers can see on-premise signs from a distance. Legible, well-placed signs decrease the amount of time that the driver is looking away from the road. Within seconds they can read the name of the business and prepare to turn into the property.

    On-premise signs enhance public safety in yet another way ­ by lighting commercial areas at night. Dark space is dangerous in a city. But when a street is well lit and has an active appearance at night, ISA research indicates that criminal activity is reduced and people feel safer. On-premise signs that are illuminated for nighttime visibility enhance and subsidize the publicly funded street lighting system.

    Breaking on-premise signage myths
    Common sense alone tells us that a roadway sign large and conspicuous enough for a driver to read could not possibly be dangerous. Ironically, many of the cities that have strict limits on business sign size, ostensibly as a way to “enhance public safety” by limiting “driver distractions,” also use mobile outdoor advertising on buses as a way to generate revenue, according to Claus.

    Claus says if the argument that on-premise signs can cause accidents had any validity ­ and studies show it does not ­ this kind of outdoor advertising would be far more distracting because it is often located directly in the driver’s field of vision. Further, Claus argues that if signage caused accidents, then traffic engineers and state departments of transportation would be hard at work to prohibit the signage routinely displayed on trucks and other commercial vehicles.

    The truth is that tall, roomy signs with large letters that are used by the federal government on the primary and interstate highway system were designed based on scrupulous scientific research specifically to enhance the safety of the public.

    These optimally readable and conspicuous signs are mandated in the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices, which functions as a national sign code and is enforced by the U.S. Federal Highway Administration. For the same reasons recognized by the federal government, readable on-premise signs enhance public safety.

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    Making the most of on-premise signage
    Clause says new studies are proving that readable signs actually help prevent that dangerous last minute dash across lanes of traffic to turn into a parking lot, or the increased frustration of having to make a U-turn or go around the block and come back to the desired business location.

    Moreover, business signs are in many ways, part of the community’s primary wayfinding systems, serving as landmarks and key visual clues to help people navigate through a city. Clause says by forcing business signs to be small and inconspicuous too many cities are inadvertently endangering the public, rather than enhancing the public’s safety.

    “Businesses have plenty of incentive to use on-premise signage,” Claus says. “In addition to enhancing driver safety, crime prevention and community enhancement, the cost per 1,000 adult exposures to an on-premise sign is only a few pennies a day. That makes it one of the most effective forms of business advertising.”

    ISA research shows that when the traffic along a commercial street moves quickly, or occupies multiple lanes, or when the street is zoned for impulse selling, business signs must be allowed to be taller and larger in order to allow drivers to read and respond to them safely. If the sign cannot be read in time, drivers could be forced to make unsafe maneuvers through traffic.

    Maintaining roadway safety
    “On-premise signage should be maintained and damaged signs should be repaired,” Claus says. “If the type is faded, if letters are missing or if it is otherwise in disrepair, it won’t be as effective as a cue for drivers. They may even think the business has closed.”

    Claus says using attractive colors and lighting effects on signage can enhance the impact and psychological response for businesses while at the same time making the sign more readable and conspicuous to drivers. And since signs typically reinforce a business’ brand with a logo, colors or some other identifying feature, he says these on-premise markings can actually help drivers recognize the business without ever having to read a word of text.

    “Each year, 40 million people travel more that 1.7 trillion miles by automobile,” Claus says. “Signs are an important link between transportation and communication. While businesses use on-premise signs to attract customers, they can also feel good in knowing that high quality signs are making the roads safer.”

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