Bah Humbug! Feds Banning Humorous Highway Signs
Have you ever been sitting up at traffic and pleasantly surprised to see a digital roadside sign with a funny or seasonal take on an important traffic message? (Think: “Ho Ho Ho, Please Drive slow,” or “Don’t drive Star Spangled Hammered.”) If the lighthearted humor brought a smile to your face, you probably aren’t one of the grumps working of the U.S. Department of Transportation. The feds just banned funny highway signs.
I’ve previously reported on the sassy highway signs New Jersey residents look forward to every holiday season, such as: “Text and Drive: Automatic Naughty List”
Bethany Bollerman from Mahwah, NJ, said of the tradition, “I love it, I think it’s great and made me laugh and I think it’s a good thing.”
And in New Jersey’s defense, it already considers many phrases and filters out distracting or lewd ones. This year’s unpublished signs include: “Nice car, did it come with a turn signal?” and “Get your head out of your apps.”
Some more favorites: “Use Yah Blinkah” in Massachusetts; “Visiting in-laws? Slow down, get there late,” from Ohio; “Hocus pocus, drive with focus” from New Jersey; and “Hands on the wheel, not your meal” from Arizona.
Arizona takes it a step further, holding a contest for residents to submit funny and creative signs. The state got 3,700 recommendations last year alone. My personal favorite winner was “I’m just a sign asking drivers to use turn signals.
Arizona Rep. David Cook, told Phoenix TV station CBS 5. “The humor part of it, we kind of like…I think in Arizona the majority of us do, if not all of us.”
But in this case, “All of us” doesn’t include the federal government. The U.S. Department of Transportation released new guidelines which specify that all signs must be, “simple, direct, brief, legible and clear.” They can warn of traffic or weather or even urge safe driving. But they can not be “intended” to be funny. They also can’t have obscure meanings or reference pop culture. I’ll admit, I’m wildly curious how the DOT plans to prove a sign was “intended” to be funny or contains a reference that is “obscure.”
If you enjoy funny highway signs, take heart in the fact that these new guidelines won’t go into effect until 2026. We get two more years of amusing and seasonal signs.
I understand that the feds are worried about highway signs distracting drivers. I just have one question: Why then are the zaniest billboards–carefully created to be impossible to ignore–still allowed above most highways?
Check out some of New Jersey’s sassy highway signs, or learn more about the new federal guidelines in the video below: