Balancing Humor And Safety: Guidelines For Highway LED Signs
We all love a little humor on a road trip, but the Federal Government says we need fewer jokes and more useful information on highway LED signs.
Yes, the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) is constantly evolving, and adapting to the ever-changing world of transportation. But that doesn't mean your favorite punny traffic quips are destined for the museum of automotive memories. It simply means they need to follow some basic guidelines, like:
- No inside jokes: Keep your pop culture references and obscure puns to yourself. Not everyone gets your "Game of Thrones" obsession, Brenda.
- Clarity is key: If your sign needs a decoder ring to be understood, it's probably not doing its job. Unless, of course, the decoder ring is actually hidden somewhere on the highway – now that's a road trip we can get behind.
- Wait, what?: If you feel the need to to a u-turn and re-read the sign, it's probably too complicated.
The good news is, that your state's signature brand of highway hilarity isn't going anywhere. Just remember, there's a fine line between chuckle-worthy and downright confusing, and the MUTCD wants to make sure everyone's singing the same traffic safety tune.
A CMS should not be used to display a traffic safety campaign message if doing so could adversely affect respect for the sign. 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. Similarly, slogan-type messages and the display of statistical information should not be used.
This news did not go over well with officials in Arizona. They actually hold contests for the best highway sign submissions. From the sound of the updated manual, by 2026 that fun will be shut down. The Federal Highway Administration released a statement to 12 News explaining that this isn't a ban, just a guideline.
"The new edition does not include a ban on humor or pop culture references on changeable message signs," The FWHA wrote in a statement to 12News. "Rather, it includes a recommendation to avoid the use of humor and pop culture references in changeable message signs that may confuse or distract drivers.
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