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VDOT improving road signs, markings to help senior drivers

Staff report • Jan 17, 2007 at 10:03 AM

Since last summer, the Virginia Department of Transportation has been implementing various visual-aid improvements to enhance safety and to help senior drivers.

With 13 percent of licensed drivers in Virginia 65 and older, VDOT is using several new improvements to help senior motorists.

As part of its Older Driver Initiative, VDOT began implementing improvements such as enhanced signs, signals and pavement markings that enhance safety and the driving experience. These include:

•Traffic signs - Improved lettering and more highly reflective guide signs are being used, as are more overhead and ground-mounted street name signs at intersections with signals. Highly visible yellow-green fluorescent signs are being installed for pedestrian, school and bicycle crossings. High-visibility orange signs are used in construction work zones.

•Wider pavement markings - Six-inch-wide pavement markings are being used on interstate highways and other high-volume roads instead of 4-inch-wide.

•Horizontal signs - Interstate shields are being painted on the pavement to help better guide motorists where additional assistance is needed.

"Improved signage and pavement markings are helpful to all drivers, but particularly to seniors with limited sight and slowed reaction times," said Ray Khoury, VDOT's state traffic engineer.

VDOT last summer began using a new Clearview font and brighter reflective sheeting on new and replacement guide signs. National studies show that using this more readable font improves legibility by 16 percent for older motorists.

Additionally, VDOT is now using pavement markings that enhance wet and night visibility in construction zones. Use of these markings for permanent applications is being tested.

VDOT continues to be a national leader among the 50 states in its use of older-driver-friendly materials that promote safety. Highly reflective marking material has been used on limited-access highways and certain other routes for eight years. Also, 12-inch-wide traffic signal lenses have been used in Virginia since the 1970s. National standards require 8-inch-wide lenses.

"The larger traffic lenses offer added visibility and stronger wattage," Khoury said. "We've also been using 5-inch-wide back plates surrounding the signal clusters for years. They add greater contrast against the blue sky and a larger visual target.

"We are committed to researching and studying ways to make driving and navigating our roadways as clear and safe as possible for all motorists. These initiatives just happen to benefit older drivers in particular."

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