🚦The NJ DOT has a checkered history with the FHWA about its messaging

🚦New federal guidance gives states two years to comply

🚦New Jersey believes its signs are in compliance

Safety messages mixed with humor are back on New Jersey highways just in time for Sunday's Super Bowl.

The new signs are the first displayed after guidelines issued by the Federal Highway Administration at the end of December in its 1,113 page manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices sent another mixed message about the tone the signs can take.

The Federal Highway Administration reverted to its initial policy that humorous signs are a distraction after seemingly relenting.

“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,” reads the report.

State departments of transportation have been given two years to comply with the policies in the manual. A penalty for non-compliance is not mentioned in the manual.

Safety message used in Massachusetts
Safety message used in Massachusetts (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

NJ DOT: We are mindful of our messaging

New Jersey DOT spokesman Steve Schapiro said the agency believes its messages about issues that can lead to crashes like texting while driving, safe merging and speeding are in compliance with the FWHA's guidelines.

"Our goal is always to create attention to safety and that’s what these signs are about. It’s about making sure people read them, remember them, and drive safely," Schapiro told New Jersey 101.5 in an email.

"NJDOT is trying to follow the same guidance that so many other states are following, and we will continue to follow the FHA guidance. We are being mindful of the kinds of messages we put up, keeping them safety centered."

New Jersey has a checkered history with the FHA about using humor in its messaging going back to 2022 when a cease and desist order turned them off.

But after the FHA backpedaled on their objections, the DOT brought them back after Thanksgiving in 2023.

Schapiro said that the football messages will come down on Sunday. The  DOT will likely have another series of signs in the spring.  The messages usually come from employee suggestions with some "borrowed" from other states.

NJ DOT post holiday electronic message on Route 295 in Mercer County
NJ DOT post holiday electronic message on Route 295 in Mercer County (Dan Alexander, Townsquare Media)

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