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    Is There No Detail Too Small For The Feds To Regulate?

    Is There No Detail Too Small For The Feds To Regulate?

    The federal government is forcing states and municipalities to change the lettering on street signs from all CAPS to initial Caps because it supposedly is easier for motorists to read, and therefore will save milliseconds of driver attention which might, I repeat, MIGHT, save lives.

    I understand uniformity of traffic signs on major highways and roads, but street name signs?

    As reported by the NEW YORK POST, sorry, New York Post, $27 million to change NYC signs from all-caps:

    Federal copy editors are demanding the city change its 250,900 street signs — such as these for Perry Avenue in The Bronx — from the all-caps style used for more than a century to ones that capitalize only the first letters.

    Changing BROADWAY to Broadway will save lives, the Federal Highway Administration contends in its updated Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices, citing improved readability.  At $110 per sign, it will also cost the state $27.6 million, city officials said….

    Studies have shown that it is harder to read all-caps signs, and those extra milliseconds spent staring away from the road have been shown to increase the likelihood of accidents, particularly among older drivers, federal documents say.

    The new regulations also require a change in font from the standard highway typeface to Clearview, which was specially developed for this purpose.

    As a result, even numbered street signs will have to be replaced.

    Interestingly, the article notes that the rules do not apply to traffic on the internet:

    “On the Internet, writing in all caps means you are shouting,” she said. “Our new signs can quiet down, as well.”

    Or should I say, don’t apply, YET.

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    When I was in the Navy, I was stationed at Lackland AFB for a School. While I was there, as a result of a change in the Air Force Chief of Staff. Air Force bases world wide changed every street sign from a blue background to a brown background. No idea what it cost or the justification for the change.

    $27 million over 15 years, wow, that's onerous. But wait, street signs wear out, so most of that money would be spent anyway.

    "To compensate for those concerns, in 2003, the administration allowed for a 15-year phase-in period ending in 2018. Although the city did not begin replacing the signs until earlier this year, Sadik-Khan said they will have no trouble meeting the deadline, as some 8,000 signs a year are replaced annually simply due to wear and tear."

    ruralcounsel, um no. This extremely easy to change went into effect immediately.

    And don't forget the benefits in your C/B anal: How many car accidents would have to be prevented for it to be worth it? How many deaths prevented?

    Congress has the power to regulate "commerce among the several states…" So how does typeface on a city street sign affect interstate commerce? Uh, jee whiz, let's see: if the guy who took .00002 seconds longer to read the all-caps sign than the new sign thereby dies in a car crash in the Bronx, and if he hadn't died he might have driven to Jersey for a good hoagie, but because he didn't the sale didn't take place…oh, yes, I see it now!

    First, they came for the shade of green on California's freeway signs but I was not a Californian and my municipality doesn't erect freeway exit signs, the state highway agency does…

    Then they came for the color of street signs at the Air Force base…

    Hey, waiddaminnit! IIRC the Federal Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices says brown is to be used to indicate parks, recreational facilities, or points of historical interest. So, are Air Force bases parks, playgrounds or obsolete?

    Norwegian Shooter:"But wait, street signs wear out, so most of that money would be spent anyway."

    I don't know where you live, but street signs wear out pretty darn slowly. Not a lot of moving parts there. Maybe damaged by accidents, or targets of theft. Neither of which are wear and tear.

    The local authorities distributed little reflective house number signs to everyone hereabouts about 10 years ago when we got enhanced 911. No sign yet that they're "wearing out."

    I suspect it will be virtually impossible to accurately and responsibly attribute any reduction in accidents to this replacement of signs. Too many other factors change in the driving environment all the time. Making any kind of change probably infinitesimally distracts some drivers, increasing accident rates until they get used to it.

    So let's see. It passed in 2003, but they had 15 years to phase it in. And here we are 7 years later and they're just starting? Gosh, what a phase-in! So they've pissed away half the time given to spread the costs out? Thus doubling the economic cost impact. 250,900 signs, at 8,000 signs per year normal replacement rate. Why, at that rate it'll only take them a little over 30 years. Why even put a timetable on this?

    The real issues, however, is whether this is a good use of tax dollars, and whether this is the sort of thing the Feds should be permitted to enforce.

    I can't imagine in our current governmental budget concerns that making infinitesimal changes in road signs would rank very high in priority. Don't we have more pressing concerns in healthcare, defense spending, social security, medicare, energy, homeland security? Or is this being counted for "job creation"?

    Why should the Fedgov be allowed to mandate anything to do with local road signs? Recommend, yes. Make available results of research, yes. Mandate? Hell no.

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