Jan 22, 2024 - News

Utah Department of Transportation ditched humorous highway signs more than a year ago

A digital sign over a freeway that says: Drowsy? Crash on a couch not a road.

Courtesy: Utah Department of Transportation

New guidelines from the Federal Highway Administration are directing states to phase out funny messaging on freeways, but Utah stopped running the silly signage over a year ago.

Driving the news: The Federal Highway Administration has said the type of wording on the road could "adversely affect respect for the sign," Axios' Shauneen Miranda reports.

Zoom in: Utah Department of Transportation spokesperson John Gleason told Axios Salt Lake City the agency halted the humorous messages in late 2022 after running them for six years.

  • Some messages included, "No Valentine? Your seatbelt will hold you" and "Drowsy? Crash on the couch, not the road."
  • Gleason and a handful of other UDOT employees wrote the messages.

What he's saying: "Like any other fresh idea, you want to prevent it from becoming stale, and we just felt that it had run its course," Gleason said. "After doing it for so many years, we just never wanted it to overstay its welcome."

  • The messages received a great deal of positive feedback, according to Gleason.

Yes, but: He noted the agency did not collect sufficient data to determine how effective funny messages were in promoting safe driving habits.

Details: States have two years to implement the new federal 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."
  • Signs should avoid messaging with "obscure or secondary meanings," including pop culture references or anything "intended to be humorous," per the administration.

The big picture: Federal officials have regarded these fun messages as a hazard for years, arguing they might incite safety risks due to distractions or even confusion among drivers, per The Washington Post.

Meanwhile, these iconic highway signs 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 a 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."

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