Have you noticed the funny, somewhat silly signs on the side of different highways and roads in Nebraska that advise of different traffic suggestions and rules? Well, the Federal Highway Administration wrote an advisory on avoiding these messages. Now, the Nebraska Department of Transportation is considering banning such signs that include humorous phrases, double meanings, and pop culture references. One such well known message that is now at risk of removal is “Don’t be a clown, put the phone down!”
There are even special seasonal messages that are at risk, such as “Texting and driving will get you on the naughty list.”
The Nebraska Department of Transportation has not yet made, or at least not yet announced, their formal decision as to whether or not they will remove these signs. A spokesperson for the department has for now said that they are reviewing the advisory through the guidelines of the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices.
The spokesperson, Jeni Campana, confirmed that the Nebraska Department of Transportation is among the agencies that has been selected to create the 11th edition of the manual on traffic control. She furthermore continued to remain silent with regard to the future of these funny signs.
They are reportedly taking extreme time and care with their decision as the decision will sit in the rules for the foreseeable future.
The Federal Highway Administration’s notice regarding these messages was quite straightforward with their determination on the issue. They wrote “Messages with obscure meaning, references to popular culture, that are intended to be humorous… should not be displayed.” They believe these messages are not sufficient in displaying the meaning behind them. The Administration feels the messages can be misunderstood or only understandable to a small number of drivers.
The state started using these humorous messages in 2016 as a means to create messages that would ideally stick well to drivers. They believed the humor and pop culture references would make the messages more memorable and therefore be more effective.
Other states have started similar practices and in 2021 the Virginia Department of Transportation decided to conduct a study to formally determine the effectiveness of the sign. Subsequently, they found that these messages did result in the most brain activity, but ultimately did not seem to reflect any direct correlation with better driving.