Snappy digital signs on New Jersey streets and highways meant to draw attention are being targeted by the federal government, leaving some wondering if Texas signs could be next.
NBC New York reported last week that the Federal Highway Administration ordered the New Jersey Department of Transportation to remove the jokes from its statewide highway message boards.
The FHA’s rationale was published in a handbook stating: The messages rely on hidden meanings or cultural knowledge to understand them and therefore tend to diminish respect due to their tone and similarity to advertising.
Some of the messages shared in New Jersey were
- “We’ll be blunt, don’t drive up”
- “Hold on to your butt. Help prevent wildfires” (a nice nod to “Jurassic Park”)
- “Don’t drive if you’re drunk”
- “Slow down. This isn’t Thunder Road”
- “Nice car, did it come with a turn signal?”
- “Head out of the apps”
The Texas Department of Transportation has also released witty messages aimed at attracting attention on their dynamic signs along freeways in recent years.
Typically, the signs warn drivers of weather conditions, closed roads, or tell a driver how long it will take to get anywhere from their current location — like “Downtown Dallas, 4 miles, 6 minutes.” When conditions permit, messages will change to remind drivers to exercise caution around public holidays or events. For example, just before Halloween and Thanksgiving, the following messages appeared on dynamic signs in Texas.
- “Drain the witches brew, drive sober.”
- “Hocus pocus, drive with concentration.”
- “Mash potatoes, not your head. Buckle up.”
- “Swallow, swallow. Use the gas sparingly.”
KXAN-TV, NBC’s Austin affiliate, checked with TxDOT officials to see if they had heard from the FHA. TxDOT informed KXAN that they are not concerned about the matter.
“All safety messages displayed on TxDOT dynamic traffic signs (DMSs) contain a strong safety component that addresses issues such as impaired driving, distracted driving, seat belts, speeding, etc.,” a TxDOT spokesperson said in an email. “The FHWA has not asked us to change our messages or disable signs.”
Click here for an interactive map showing the locations of dynamic traffic signs in Texas and their current messages.