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June 18, 2010

USSC Funds Research on EMC Light Level Variations

The United States Sign Council Foundation, which is the research arm of the USSC, has now initiated a research study aimed at developing nighttime lighting level guidelines for on-premise LED powered Electronic Message Center (EMC) signs. The study, scheduled for completion in the Fall of 2010, will be conducted by Philip Garvey, who has been spearheading on-premise sign research and providing consulting services to the USSC for nearly fifteen years. At completion, the study is expected to provide the industry with a scientifically acceptable means of calculating appropriate on-premise LED EMC light levels for all ambient light conditions - day and night - based on the needs of the motorist and traffic safety.

The study is prompted by a serious need for this information. A rapidly growing list of cities and towns are attempting to restrict LED EMC lighting levels without benefit of scientific research into the consequences of such restrictions, both in regard to compromised legibility and the consequent impact on traffic safety, particularly on relatively high speed highways.

One of the most frequent questions received at USSC headquarters, in fact, from both sign company members and planners and regulators alike, concerns LED EMC brightness levels, and in particular, the apparent need to adjust those levels from day to night viewing cycles.

The research team will examine the current lighting paradigm, which holds that if on-premise LED electronic message centers are not set at the appropriate light level for the given ambient brightness, they will either appear to be too dim, in which case they will not optimally be detectable or legible to motorists, or they will appear too bright, which can have the effect of actually reducing sign legibility.

The main objective of the research is to determine appropriate LED EMC brightness as a function of ambient light level. Particular emphasis will be placed on ensuring that the signs are bright enough in daylight and sufficiently dimmed at night to provide for the requisite degree of legibility to motorists approaching them at varying rates of speed and travel conditions.

The projected end result is an on-premise LED EMC lighting level guideline, based on solid science and engineering. This could then be incorporated into every LED EMC installed in the country, and provide both the industry and the regulators with a scientifically verifiable guide that could easily be understood and enforced, and incorporated into municipal codes.

However, if research findings are not strong enough to support the development of guidelines for LED EMC lighting levels, then the result of the research will also include a detailed proposal to conduct the additional research necessary to definitively address this issue, which will be assessed by USSC at that time.

In any event, USSC is certain that this initial outreach research effort will help it answer questions on the subject of LED EMC lighting with the same degree of scientific accuracy that has become the hallmark of all past USSC research efforts.

United States Sign Council ( USSC )
211 Radcliffe Street
Bristol, PA 19007
Phone: 215-785-1922
Website URL:

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