IE 11 Not Supported

For optimal browsing, we recommend Chrome, Firefox or Safari browsers.

Funny highway signs — genius or safety hazard?

Answer: It depends on who you ask.

Blurred cars on a freeway to indicate they are moving fast.
Ever been in a monotonous drive on a state highway or freeway and see one of those changeable message signs, but it actually said something funny instead of the standard “buckle up and drive the speed limit”? You probably paid better attention to it because it was funny and unique, but is that a good or a bad thing?

According to the federal government, it’s a bad thing. Federal officials including members of the Federal Highway Administration have spoken out and in some cases even taken action against these humorous messages, saying they are dangerous because they distract drivers. In late 2022, the New Jersey Department of Transportation started using humorous messages that were so funny, they garnered a lot of social media attention. That is, until the state was forced to remove the messages after Robert Clark of the Federal Highway Administration told it to “cease and desist.”

Clark’s argument was that employing funny messages “does not serve a highway purpose, is inconsistent with both law and regulations.” Tripp Shealy at Virginia Tech says research finds that the funny messages are effective because they make drivers further engage their brains. However, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine Transportation Research Board recommends against funny messages based on their own research. As of now, there’s no specific, formal law or regulation against these messages.