Strange signs prove you need a sense of humor to drive in NJ
🚦Humorous messages were displayed on NJ highway message boards in 2022
🚦The Federal Highway Administration demanded they be taken down
🚦New toned down messages appeared during the Thanksgiving holiday
Humorous and sometimes snarky safety messages made their return to New Jersey highways during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.
The state Department of Transportation posted witty messages on electronic signs all around the state in November 2022 like "hocus pocus, drive with focus," "we'll be blunt, don't drive high" and "Slow down. This ain't Thunder Road."
Drivers posted pictures (despite warnings not to take pictures and drive) and generally got a laugh out of them.
Everyone, that is, except the Federal Highway Administration, which issued a cease-and-desist order.
NJDOT spokesman Steve Shapiro told the Washington Post in February that the FHA generally frowned on the sarcastic and humorous messages being used by all states, not just New Jersey.
Robert J. Clark, head of the federal agency’s New Jersey division, told the NJDOT that the messages did not promote safety and were "inconsistent with both law and regulations, and increases the liability risk to the owner of the roadway facility," according to Shapiro.
The DOT abided by the FHA's letter and removed the messages.
Maybe they're not so bad after all
Clark wrote another letter to the NJDOT that backpedaled on the demand to remove the messages and said he understood that humor and cultural references can effectively relay a safety message.
The NJDOT has taken the opening and the humorous messages returned for the Thanksgiving holiday weekend .
Messages like "Distracted Drivers are worse than fruitcake" appeared on Route 287 southbound near Route 202/206 in Bridgewater. "Santa's watching, put down the phone" and "Don't be a Grinch. Let them merge" were seen on the New Jersey Turnpike and Garden State Parkway.
Humorous Signs Return to New Jersey Highways
Gallery Credit: Dan Alexander
Less snark, more dad humor
Transportation Commissioner Diane Gutierrez-Scaccetti told Fox Philadelphia they've dialed back the snark in this year's messages to keep the FHA satisfied.
"We are being mindful of the kind of messages we put up that they're not too edgy or considered distracting," Gutierrez-Scaccetti said. "We've still seen some of our neighboring states put the signs up and I feel like if we stay within those same parameters then I think we're in a good place."
Shapiro told New Jersey 101.5 that there is no formal process to come up with the messages.
"Some of the staff just sat down and did some brainstorming," Shapiro said. "If we saw something in another state that was kind of catchy we borrowed it."
The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration also develops national safety campaigns throughout the year that we run on our message boards, according to Shapiro.
The DOT's messages were interspersed with NHTSA’s "buzzed driving is drunk driving" messages along with the NJ Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness' “Report Suspicious Activity” campaign.
Shapiro said the humorous messages will continue into the new year.
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Gallery Credit: Mike Brant