This State's Road Signs Were Too Much for the Feds

New Jersey DOT forced by FHWA to take down humorous messages promoting highway safety
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 18, 2022 6:23 AM CST
Updated Nov 20, 2022 3:55 PM CST
This State's Road Signs Were Too Much for the Feds
The feds didn't approve of signs like these.   (New Jersey Department of Transportation, via the Philadelphia Inquirer)

Quirky highway signs described as "quintessential New Jersey" that were designed to raise awareness on road safety have been getting the thumbs-up from motorists in the Garden State. But the feds apparently didn't approve and reportedly directed them to be switched off. "Hold on to your butts—don't drive high," "Get your head out of your apps," and "Nice car. Did it come with a turn signal?" are just a few examples of the 200-plus tongue-in-cheek digital displays from the New Jersey Department of Transportation that debuted last month across the state, per the Philadelphia Inquirer. There was even a message dedicated to native son Bruce Springsteen: "Slow down. This ain't Thunder Road."

The signs struck a chord with drivers, who appreciated the sense of humor. "It made me laugh out loud," one local tells the paper. "I think it gets the point across better if it makes you laugh." The signs are "quintessential New Jersey—kind of in-your-face," NJDOT Commissioner Diane Gutierrez-Scaccetti notes, adding that the messages "caught on in a big way." As of Wednesday, however, the signs had gone dark at the instruction of the Federal Highway Administration. "The FHWA has instructed us to cease posting these creative safety messages," an NJDOT representative announced in an email. The FHWA, for its part, issued a curt statement that simply said it was "aware of the changeable message signs and has reached out to NJDOT."

New Jersey isn't the only state that's test-driven these types of signs: Delaware, Pennsylvania, Utah, California, and Tennessee have also tapped into such humorous messages. It's not clear exactly why the FHWA issued its directive—a NJDOT warning on Twitter last month hints that people were creating dangerous conditions by taking pictures of the signs while driving—but now that they've been turned off, wistful motorists are left with only memories. "I miss seeing them," one driver tells FOX 29, adding that it "doesn't make sense" why the signs were deactivated. It's also not clear if other states will be made to nix their own messages. (More New Jersey stories.)

Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.