No Joke: DOT ‘Strongly Recommends’ States Halt Humorous Highway Signs
I am here to write a correction! Sort of.
On the 19th of December 2023 the Federal Department of Transportation released its updated 1,100 page “Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices for Streets and Highways.” In those hallowed pages the agency warned against overhead electronic signs with obscure meanings or pop culture references, or even signs intending to be funny. It argued that all signs should be “simple, direct, brief, legible and clear.”
Like many journalists, I ran with the story. I urged readers to say goodbye to Massachusetts’ “Use Yah Blinkah” signs, and New Jersey’s seasonal “Text and Drive: Automatic Naughty List,” and Texas’ “Only Rudolph should drive lit,” and Arizona’s “I’m just a sign asking drivers to use turn signals,” and Ohio’s “Visiting in-laws? Slow down, get there late.”
I even did a somber look back at the many sassy highway signs New Jersey famously unfurls each holiday season.
And I may or may not have also called the Feds intent on putting an end to this revelry “grumps.”
Did I hit a nerve? Or did the DOT’s heart just grow three sizes that day? We’ll never know. But whatever the reason, the feds issued the a statement to Kera News news on January 19th explaining that the DOT manual is not an outright ban on humorous signs.
“Rather, it includes a recommendation to avoid the use of humor and pop culture references in changeable message signs that may confuse or distract drivers.”
So there you have it: The Feds’ 1,100-page manual for states to read is a “strong recommendation.” That’s quite the punchline.
Next, see all of New Jersey’s sassy seasonal highway signs.