AUSTIN (KXAN) — “Feast Your Eyes on the Road — Drive Safely.” “Horns Up, Phones Down, It Can Wait.” “Only Rudolph Should Drive Lit.”
These are just a handful of highway signs that have captured drivers’ attention along the Texas Department of Transportation roadways. Similar messages have been displayed in New Jersey, courtesy of the New Jersey Department of Transportation. However, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) didn’t find the digital quips there a laughing matter, per reporting from NBC New York.
The FHWA instructed NJDOT to take down “witticisms” from its highway message boards. Those messages went for a similar, punny vain: “We’ll be blunt, don’t drive high.” “Hocus Pocus drive with focus.” “Slow down. This ain’t Thunder Road.”
The devil’s in the details, though. According to the FHWA’s Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices, signs are expected to deliver clear and simple meanings that are easy to understand, as opposed to cheekier phrases.
“The use of witticisms, colloquialisms, and popular culture references that target or are comprehended only by a limited segment of the population is not consistent with a clear, simple meaning for all,” the manual reads. “Instead, these messages rely on hidden meanings or targeted cultural knowledge to understand the message.”
So what does that mean for TxDOT and its propensity for punchy message boards?
In a statement to KXAN, TxDOT officials told us they aren’t worried about the matter.
“All safety messages displayed on TxDOT dynamic message signs (DMSs) contain a strong safety component, addressing topics such as impaired driving, distracted driving, seat belts, speeding, etc.,” a TxDOT spokesperson said in an email. “The FHWA has not asked us to alter our messaging or to deactivate signs.”