In recent times, drivers throughout the nation have chuckled (or groaned) on the humorous security messages which have popped up on America’s highways.

In Massachusetts, there was the inevitable play on the Boston accent: “Altering lanes? Use Yah Blinkah.”

Iowa’s Department of Transportation tried out: “Texting & Driving? Oh Cell No!”

New Jersey paid tribute to Bruce Springsteen, warning drivers: “Sluggish Down. This Ain’t Thunder Street.”

However federal officers say a few of the makes an attempt at humor have gone too far and may very well be distracting or misunderstood.

Within the newest version of the federal requirements for freeway indicators, published in December, officers warned that messages “with obscure or secondary meanings, akin to these with in style tradition references” or these which might be “meant to be humorous,” shouldn’t be used.

The requirements don’t impose an outright ban on all humor or pop-culture references in freeway indicators, the Federal Freeway Administration mentioned in a press release on Wednesday. However they advocate that officers keep away from messages “which will confuse or distract drivers.”

State and native officers ought to “use logic,” the assertion mentioned, primarily based on longstanding ideas that advocate that freeway indicators “fulfill a necessity; command consideration; convey a transparent, easy message; command respect; and supply satisfactory time for correct response.”

The federal steering, reported by The Wall Street Journal, was a blow to state officers who’ve had enjoyable moonlighting as comedy writers in an try to seize the eye of drivers.

Paul Katool, a spokesman for the Mississippi Division of Transportation, is a part of a gaggle of workers who bat round concepts each month for humorous freeway indicators, riffing on motion pictures, pop music and upcoming holidays.

One signal that drew widespread consideration in Mississippi referred to the lyrics of the hit Taylor Swift music “Anti-Hero”: “Texting and Driving? Say It: I’m the Drawback. It’s Me.” One other in style one, Mr. Katool mentioned, referred to the “Star Wars” tv present “The Mandalorian,” declaring: “Child Yoda Makes use of the Drive However Nonetheless Wants a Automotive Seat.”

Not each signal is a runaway hit, Mr. Katool acknowledged. When the film “Barbie” got here out final 12 months, the division urged drivers to not textual content with the message: “Be a Doll, Use Your Equipment at Dwelling.”

“It was in style,” Mr. Katool mentioned. “It wasn’t tremendous viral.”

Nonetheless, he mentioned, humorous indicators are “nice dialog starters.”

“There’s solely so some ways you possibly can say, ‘Don’t textual content and drive,’” Mr. Katool mentioned. “Individuals tune you out.”

Maine’s transportation division held a clever-sign contest that drew almost 2,000 entries. One of many winners urged drivers to decelerate in winter, declaring, “Little Identified Truth: Snow Is Actually Slippery.”

“By even having this dialogue, MaineDOT believes the indicators are assembly the aim of selling security,” Paul Merrill, a spokesman for the division, mentioned in a press release on Wednesday. “We’ll proceed posting our messages and hope the federal authorities is keen to have extra conversations on this matter.”

A 2020 study commissioned by the Virginia Division of Transportation discovered that “messages about distracted driving, messages that embody humor, and messages that use phrase play and rhymes rank excessive amongst a number of measures of effectiveness” in selling safer driving.

The examine advisable utilizing lighthearted indicators however focusing on messages extra narrowly. Indicators that use wordplay and rhyming are more practical than people who commerce in sports activities or pop-culture references, it mentioned.

However a 2022 study, funded by the Governors Freeway Security Affiliation and the Nationwide Freeway Site visitors Security Administration, discovered {that a} “important proportion” of drivers didn’t perceive security messages that included humor, wit or pop-culture references. That examine advisable that freeway indicators not use humor and that messages be restricted to 16 phrases or numbers.

Richard A. Davey, the president of New York Metropolis Transit, mentioned that humorous security messages can “break via the noise.” When he was secretary of the Massachusetts Division of Transportation in 2014, the “Use Yah Blinkah” freeway message acquired quite a lot of constructive consideration from Boston drivers and the native information media, he mentioned.

“I believe the native taste for security messages is essential,” Mr. Davey mentioned. “What works in Wyoming goes to be totally different in Massachusetts.”

New Jersey has a practice of utilizing humorous indicators like: “We’ll be blunt, don’t drive excessive,” and “Get your head out of your apps.” Nevertheless, the state has been warned by federal officers that such messages could be distracting.

“Our purpose is at all times to create consideration to security and that’s what these indicators are about,” mentioned Steve Schapiro, a spokesman for the New Jersey Division of Transportation. “It’s about ensuring folks learn them, bear in mind them, and drive safely.”

Nonetheless, he mentioned, New Jersey would comply with the federal steering and “be aware of the sorts of messages we put up, retaining them security centered.”

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