Gov’t Urges Caution With Cheeky Road Signs: Why Humor Could Be Hazardous

Government Warns Against Messages That Could Harm Sign’s Repute

The humorous messages that many states have displayed on their highway signs will no longer be a source of entertainment. In a recent announcement, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) released new guidelines regarding the use of electronic message boards for communicating vital information to drivers, which does not permit the use of popular culture references or jokes.

The FHWA suggests that highway messages should be straightforward, concise, easy to read, and unambiguous for motorists. In line with this recommendation, the recent guideline states that states must refrain from using messages with obscure or secondary interpretations, such as those containing references to popular trends, unconventional phrasing, or intended humor on traffic signals. These light-hearted words may be misinterpreted by drivers or only understood by a narrow group of individuals on the road, both of which could decrease the value and importance of the sign.

It is a regrettable conclusion to the playful banter on the highways, however, the anticipated regulations are no shock. At the close of 2022, federal authorities requested New Jersey to eliminate their charming and imaginative signage, serving as one of the initial indicators of potential new guidelines for road traffic signs in the US.

The Garden State recently showcased some awesome slogans such as: “Let’s be direct – don’t drive under the influence,” “Put down your devices,” and “Abracadabra, stay focused behind the wheel.” However, officials also had to urge motorists to refrain from capturing images of these clever signs, as stated in a tweet by the New Jersey Department of Transportation. According to them, taking photos is extremely hazardous and undermines the purpose of these powerful messages.

Several states including Utah, Delaware, Ohio, and Tennessee have creatively displayed amusing messages on their highway signs. These unique messages have been entertaining drivers and spreading positive vibes across the country.

If you are interested in understanding the regulations regarding how the government manages the roads, take a look at the recently released 11th edition of the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices for Streets and Highways, which spans over 1,100 pages. Page 519 contains the revised guidelines pertaining to electronic control boards.

Sources: Manual On Uniform Traffic Control Devices For Streets and Highways 11th Edition via The Wall Street Journal, Ohio DOT / Twitter

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