TRAFFIC

No joke: Feds are banning humorous electronic messages on highways

Jan 15, 2024, 3:00 PM | Updated: 4:18 pm

funny traffic highway signs...

After an increase in traffic fatalities for the past two years, the Utah Department of Transportation started a campaign using edgy, funny messages to promote safety. (Utah Department of Transportation)

(Utah Department of Transportation)

PHOENIX (AP) — It’s no joke. Humorous and quirky messages on electronic signs will soon disappear from highways and freeways across the country.

The U.S. Federal Highway Administration has given states two years to implement all the changes outlined in its new 1,100-page manual released last month, including rules that spells out how signs and other traffic control devices are regulated.

Administration officials said overhead electronic signs with obscure meanings, references to pop culture or those intended to be funny will be banned in 2026 because they can be misunderstood or distracting to drivers.

The agency, which is part of the U.S. Department of Transportation, said signs should be “simple, direct, brief, legible and clear” and only be used for important information such as warning drivers of crashes ahead, adverse weather conditions and traffic delays. Seatbelt reminders and warnings about the dangers of speeding or driving impaired are also allowed.

Among those that will be disappearing are messages such as “Use Yah Blinkah” in Massachusetts; “Visiting in-laws? Slow down, get there late,” from Ohio; “Don’t drive Star Spangled Hammered,” from Pennsylvania; “Hocus pocus, drive with focus” from New Jersey; and “Hands on the wheel, not your meal” from Arizona.

Arizona has more than 300 electronic signs above its highways. For the last seven years, the state Department of Transportation has held a contest to find the funniest and most creative messages.

Anyone could submit ideas, drawing more than 3,700 entries last year. The winners were “Seatbelts always pass a vibe check” and “I’m just a sign asking drivers to use turn signals.”

“The humor part of it, we kind of like,” said state Rep. David Cook, a Republican from Globe, told Phoenix TV station CBS 5. “I think in Arizona the majority of us do, if not all of us.”

He said he didn’t understand the fuss.

“Why are you trying to have the federal government come in and tell us what we can do in our own state? Prime example that the federal government is not focusing on what they need to be.”

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No joke: Feds are banning humorous electronic messages on highways