Recommended Guidelines for Nighttime Overhead Sign Visibility Academic Article uri icon


  • Guidelines for the provision of effective nighttime performance of overhead signs were developed. Relevant policies and guidelines with regard to sign lighting currently provide little useful information to determine when sign lighting is needed, and the reference material available to practitioners is out of date. Two complementary nighttime visibility studies were conducted, which were designed to produce results useful in developing updated guidelines for overhead sign visibility. The first was conducted on a closed course and investigated the legibility distances of three sign legend and background configurations under various sign lighting treatments. The second was conducted on the open road. It investigated the effects of sign luminance and visual complexity on the distance at which a driver can read overhead signs during a recognition task. The combined findings were used to develop revised guidelines designed to provide adequate nighttime visibility of overhead signs. The proposed guidelines are based on the needs of nighttime motorists and have been formatted specifically for AASHTOs Roadway Lighting Design Guide, which is being updated. The revised chapter on roadway sign lighting was provided to the AASHTO task force responsible for revisions. The guidelines include a list of recommended retroreflective sheeting materials that can be used to meet nighttime driver needs for specific complexity levels.

published proceedings


author list (cited authors)

  • Carlson, P. J., Brimley, B., Chrysler, S. T., Gibbons, R., & Terry, T.

citation count

  • 0

complete list of authors

  • Carlson, Paul J||Brimley, Brad||Chrysler, Susan T||Gibbons, Ron||Terry, Travis

publication date

  • January 2017