A series of humorous messages on digital highway signs created by the New Jersey Department of Transportation did not amuse federal officials.
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From Wednesday afternoon, messages like “Head out of the apps” and the like will be displayed “Mashed Potatoes – Not Your Head” has been removed from the NJDOT network of 215 permanent digital warning signs statewide, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported.
Similar messages were used in other states.
“The FHWA (Federal Highway Administration) has directed us to stop posting these creative safety messages,” NJDOT press manager Stephen Schapiro told the newspaper in an email on Wednesday.
FHWA officials said in an email to NJ Advance Media late Friday, “The Federal Highway Administration is aware of the changeable signage and has reached out to the New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT).”
Some of the other cheeky messages included exhortations: “Slow down. This isn’t Thunder Road,” a nod to New Jersey native Bruce Springsteen; “Don’t drive if you’re drunk”; “We’ll be blunt, don’t drive up”; and “Hold on to your butt. Help prevent wildfires, a tribute to a scene from Jurassic Park.
Federal and state officials rely on a document called the Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices, NJ.com reported. The characters may have been disallowed due to a 31-paragraph ruling on “Use of and Nonstandard Syntax on Editable Message Characters” issued by the US DOT and FHWA on January 4, 2021.
In part, the ruling notes that any messages based on hidden meanings or cultural references tend to diminish respect because of their tone and similarity to advertising marks, WNBC-TV reported.
“The display of the associated safety message should be limited for optimal effect and must be relevant to the type of road on which it is displayed,” the regulations state.
In an interview with the Inquirer on Tuesday, NJDOT Commissioner Diane Gutierrez-Scaccetti said the signs were an attempt to “get people’s attention on the street with messages that are quintessential New Jersey — sort of intrusive.”
“We meet the drivers where they are and these messages resonated very well,” she told the newspaper.
Other states have used humor to remind motorists to drive safely. Officials at the Massachusetts DOT used a Boston accent in 2014 that told drivers to “use Yah Blinkah.” The Arizona Daily Star reported.
Other states have used slogans urging motorists to “click or take a ticket” and refer to mandatory seat belt use.
“Aggressive driving is a big problem,” Mary Beth Caracci told the Inquirer. Her family has owned South Jersey Driving School in Moorestown for almost 40 years.
“Personally, I’m not a fan of sarcasm,” Caracci told the newspaper. “But any sign that reminds us to remember to be better drivers is fine with me.”
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