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White Paper: Why Chevron Panels? Traffic Marking Systems

Chevron panels are a type of traffic marking system, one that has been used for over a century to warn drivers about impending hazards.  The MUTCD specifies a wide array of signage designs for use across the United States.  While they vary in their exact details, they are united by common features that enable them to fulfill their purpose. 

These include:

Visibility.  Chevron panels and other traffic markers should be conspicuous to drivers of all age groups and at a sufficient distance to allow them to react to the message conveyed.  In general, contrasting color choices and bright tones serve this purpose best, which is why chevron panels typically have a black-and-yellow layout.

Singular functionality.  To fulfill their purpose, each type of traffic sign must be distinct from all other types.  Otherwise, the driver may be unsure about the information being communicated.  To accomplish this, designers make signage in different shapes and with varying logos, text colors, sizes, etc.

Frequency.  A sign that drivers almost never see is unlikely to be remembered, which is why the MUTCD allows only a limited number of designs.  The idea is for chevron panels and other traffic markers to remain familiar to the driver’s mind without being so commonplace that they lose their impact.

Standardization.  Traffic markers must be simple enough in design for manufacturers to replicate them with ease.  This is one reason why logos are preferable to text when it comes to traffic signs.  A graphic image contains no letters that can be misread by approaching drivers.  In a few cases, limited use of text is allowed, as in the ever-familiar stop sign.

Chevron panels are effective because they conform to the above guidelines.  Understanding the principles that guide sign design and selection can help public safety officials, highway engineers, and others to appreciate the care and time that goes into creating all types of traffic markers.