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Thursday, September 30, 2010

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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  1. As someone who has spent 30 years in environmental management and the like, my first thoughts were "so?". They have been doing that to other regulated communities for years. Now they are beating on municipalities. About time. You must remember, these pointy-headed folks in Washington do not care if they have a bad idea, nor do they care how much it costs. Just think how many folks would be in the job market if they had to do honest work.

  2. This fits in with all the stimulus money spent on signage telling us stimulus money was being spent on a project. Do you suppose there's some huge democrat contributors in the business?

  3. look up the ABA v. the FTC litigation going on right now.

    I have coined a new term for it. Democratic totalitarianism. i mean the fact is we voted for these idiots, but they want to control everything in our lives. if they were dictators, we would call this a totalitarian dictatorship. but because, for now, basically democratic, i put that in the term.

  4. The ultimate irony would be that a lot of the steel for this kind of signage is imported. Anyone know about this kind of light gauge sheet steel? And stamped and painted by prison industry "workers."

    This is the kind of economic "stimulus" we can expect from the current administration ... pointless, expensive, unproductive or low ROI, and authoritarian. This is exactly why Keynsian economic theory implemented by government is unlikely to ever achieve the announced goals. These people have no concept of how to run anything in the black, where the clients aren't captive (literally and figuratively).

  5. Our street signs were replaced with all caps last year. They were black letters, first cap, rest lower case. Now they are blue block, all caps. No regs on color? It's probably wrong too.

    Our town just passed a new reg on certain stop signs after an uninsured, unlicensed non-english speaking illegal blew a stop sign, t-boned a car and killed an innocent man. It was decided that the stop signs need to be BIGGER. Standard size isn't good enough. More justice was served when she recieved a nice plane trip back to Portugal, instead of jail like an American citizen felon would have recieved.

  6. Before everyone starts railing on the Democrats, I'd like to point out that this regulation was passed in 2003, under a Republican president and a Republican congress.

    See the original NY Post article if you don't believe me, though the writers gloss it over as "the administration" rather than "the Bush administration"

  7. Does it matter when it was passed? It's asinine from either party.

  8. The point is, Crescent, that big G Government needs to change, be reined in, and reimagined back to it's original intent. I could not care any less WHO did the deed in Government, Government imposed the first standard now wants to change it. Government needs to change back to a Representative Republic within Constitutional bounds.

  9. I can do one better, professor. The US Senate unanimously passed a measure to force broadcasters to limit the volume on commercials (http://www.komonews.com/news/national/104085319.html). I assume it applies to cable as well as over the air. This measure is likely to become law.

    Is there any limit whatsoever on these elitist toads in DC? Maybe they will determine what dress codes are appropriate for pedestrians or what car colors are legal.

  10. Even if the legislation passed in 2003, obviously the administration then in power had sense enough not to implement any regulation. Laws are oten broad and vague. Recall that law begets more specific regulation, and the regulation need only be a "reasonable" interpretation of the law.

    It took the current crop of asses to want to actually force the issue.

  11. 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.

  12. $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?

  13. 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!

  14. 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?

  15. 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.

  16. The average life of a street sign is 10 years. Which means these signs could be replaced with the changes as normal. This is a stupid, fake issue.

  17. I write this as someone with a cataract who thinks that more reflective signs with Caps instead of CAPS would be such a relief for driving because it would be more like .5 or even 1 second difference trying to figure out (in little glances at a time) what that sign says at a distance that will let me turn on it if it's the street I need:
    And yes, I was shouting. I would love all signs in the world to be easier to read - but I also have the ability to drive around the block if I miss the street. There are far better uses for time and money when both are in short supply. No, it's not a super-big deal - but what if government regulation allowed me to SUE some poor little hamlet that gets maybe 100 non-local visitors a year because they can't afford to update their signs? THAT is where this is going. THAT is why this is a problem. Because if there's a federal law dictating something, someone will then sue an entity that can't afford to pay because they couldn't afford to follow the regulation.

  18. This is another non-issue.

    We want the Federal Government to manage anything to do with roads and highways so that there is uniformity from state to state and drivers don't have to freak out because Texas uses green stop signs while Oklahoma uses pink ones.

    Oh, and by the way, we choose to use the tools of government to help us manage the mechanics of our society, in addition to protecting our constitutionally protected rights and liberties.

  19. yossarian,

    Who, exactly, are you saying wants the Congress to manage everything to do with roads and highways? I don't. States are capable of uniformity without unConstitutional regulations from Congress.

    And who, exactly, are you saying chooses to use the "tools of government" to help us manage the mechanics of our society? I don't choose that. I choose to vote only for candidate who expressly state they WILL NOT try to manage the mechanics of our society.

    And who, exactly, are you saying desires anything more from the United States than protecting our constitutionally guaranteed rights and liberties? That is the extent of what we have empowered the United States to do – nothing more, nothing less – and I don't want anything more or anything less from them.