Feds To Ban ‘Humorous’ Messages And ‘References To Popular Culture’ On All Electronic Highway Signs

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John Oyewale Contributor
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All humorous and quirky traffic safety campaign messages will be banned across the U.S. by 2026, according to new guidelines with an effective date of Jan. 18, authorities said.

The U.S. Federal Highway Administration (FHA), a division of the United States Department of Transportation, released the 11th Edition of the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices for Streets and Highways (MUTCD) after a final rule adopting it was published Dec. 19, 2023 in the Federal Register, according to the FHA.

The 1,100-page manual—the national standard for traffic signage—stipulated, among other things, that traffic safety campaign messages were secondary to traffic control messages and any traffic safety message displayed on an electronic sign “should be simple, direct, brief, legible, and clear.”

“Messages with obscure or secondary meanings, such as those with popular culture references, unconventional sign legend syntax, or that are intended to be humorous, should not be used as they might be misunderstood or understood only by a limited segment of road users and require greater time to process and understand,” the manual further stated. “Similarly, slogan-type messages and the display of statistical information should not be used.”

The MUTCD, which was last updated in 2009, resulted from contributions from state and local traffic engineers and traffic control device technicians, among others, the FHA said in a statement. (RELATED: Biden Admin Rolled Out A Massive Highway Emissions Rule On Thanksgiving Eve)

“States must adopt the 11th Edition of the National MUTCD as their legal State standard for traffic control devices within two years from the effective date,” the FHA said.

Two examples of acceptable traffic safety campaign messages were “UNBUCKLED SEAT BELTS FINE + POINTS” and “IMPAIRED DRIVERS LOSE LICENSE + JAIL,” the manual noted.

Therefore, Massachusetts, for example, would remove the safety messaging “Use Yah Blinkah” from its electronic signs by 2026, The Associated Press (AP) reported. Other states such as Ohio (“Visiting in-laws? Slow down, get there late”), Pennsylvania (“Don’t drive Star Spangled Hammered”), New Jersey (“Hocus pocus, drive with focus”), Arizona (“Hands on the wheel, not your meal”), reportedly will remove similar signs between 2024 and 2026.