Jan 23, 2024 - News

NC is ahead of the curve on bland highway signs

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

Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

The Federal Highway Administration is phasing out funny messaging on highway signs, saying this type of wording on the road could "adversely affect respect for the sign," Axios' Shauneen Miranda writes.

  • In North Carolina, though, not much will change.

State of play: Iconic highway signs in other states have often featured state-specific humor and puns, such as "Use yah blinkah" in Massachusetts and "O-H-I-Whoa! Watch your speed" in the Buckeye State.

  • Some states have taken their funny road signs to the next level, including Arizona, which holds its own safety message contest.
  • The Arizona Department of Transportation said its 2023 winners, based on over 3,700 submissions, included: "I'm just a sign asking a driver to use turn signals" and "Seatbelts always pass the vibe check."

Yes, but: North Carolina has kept its signs straightforward and simple for a while now in anticipation of the FHA's changes.

  • "The N.C. Department of Transportation aims to protect the safety of the traveling public through the use of succinct messaging on digital signs," NCDOT spokesperson Jamie Kritzer told WOBX last year.

Details: States have two years to implement the new guidelines, according to the administration in its updated manual released last month.

  • The administration, a division of the Department of Transportation, said messaging should be "simple, direct, brief, legible, and clear" as well as "relevant to the road user on the roadway on which the message is displayed."

The intrigue: Some state leaders are rolling their eyes at the new rules, while others have said they're reviewing them.

Context: North Carolina has had some issues with hackers changing digital traffic signs, including as recently as last year, when one between Lake Wheeler Road and Ransdell Road displayed a racial slur.


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