Highway Administration: Humorous road signs can stay, but safety messages must be clear

Humorous road signs first popped up along New Jersey roadways in 2022 and have been a big hit with drivers.

Jim Murdoch

Jan 25, 2024, 10:57 PM

Updated 176 days ago

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“Ho ho ho! Please drive slow!” If you enjoyed the puns and Jersey humor on the highway safety signs, it appears they’re here to stay.
The signs first popped up along New Jersey roadways in 2022 and have been a big hit with drivers. Last week, the Federal Highway Administration updated new regulations for those clever signs – and while it does not call for an outright ban, states must make sure the safety message does not get lost in pop culture references.
“It’s funny but it makes you aware that you shouldn’t do these things. I think they’re great,” said Hennessey Benitez, of Garfield.
“It makes me pay attention. I read them a little more. I get excited to see the next one,” added Mike O’Sullivan, of Connecticut.
A spokesperson for the New Jersey Department of Transportation tells News 12 that the creative signs fit with their continued safety campaign, and they are carefully crafted so drivers are sure to get the message with a touch of humor.
The full statement from the NJDOT reads, “NJDOT regularly runs PSAs to remind drivers of the various behavioral issues that can lead to crashes (texting while driving, safe merging, speeding, etc). The creative messages we recently ran fit with our continued approach to reduce crashes and promote safer driving habits. Our goal is always to create attention to safety and that’s what these signs are about. It’s about making sure people read them, remember them, and drive safely.”
The statement continued, “NJDOT is trying to follow the same guidance that so many other states are following, and we will continue to follow the FHWA guidance. We are being mindful of the kinds of messages we put up, keeping them safety-centered.”
News 12 also contacted the Federal Highway Administration. A spokesperson sent this statement:
“The Federal Highway Administration supports the use of changeable message signs for traffic safety campaigns that are meant to ensure the safety of the traveling public. The use of signs that make cultural references may be of interest, but safety is our top priority. The new edition of the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) does not include a ban on humor or pop culture references on changeable message signs – that policy remains the same. Rather, it includes a recommendation to avoid the use of humor and pop culture references because it may confuse or distract drivers. Messages should fulfill a need; command attention; convey a clear, simple message; command respect; and provide adequate time for proper response. And remember: ‘Santa sees you when you’re speeding.’”


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