Jan 17, 2024 - News

Colorado wants federal highway officials to take a joke

Illustration of a highway electronic sign doing a standup routine. The sign reads, "So what's the deal with..."

Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

The feds are a bit of a stinker. They don't like how Colorado urges people to use their blinker.

Driving the news: The Federal Highway Administration is putting the kibosh on messages displayed over highways that are funny or clever, saying the wording could "adversely affect respect for the sign."

  • The new rules explicitly prohibit states from using messages with pop culture references, humor or anything that "might be misunderstood or understood only by a limited segment of road users and require greater time to process and understand."

The other side: The news prompted an eye roll from Colorado's transportation chief.

  • "Washington sure knows how to take the fun out of funding," state transportation director, Shoshana Lew told us in a statement. "Kidding aside, we think a little levity can help get important messages across, especially in tough weather conditions and while we fix our roads and bridges."

What to know: Colorado transportation officials believe their messages will comply with the new federal rules.

  • The signs don't include pop culture references and strive to be simple in order to minimize distractions.
  • "We aim for messages that are simple and direct but also memorable," Sam Cole, the safety communications manager tells us.

Quick take: Our top 5 favorite CDOT signs:

  • "Camp in the mountains, not in the left lane"
  • "Cats have 9, you have 1, buckle up."
  • "Gobble, gobble, easy on the throttle" (timed to Thanksgiving)
  • "Don't be a stinker, use your blinker"
  • "Exit to text it"

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