Ohio transportation officials use highway sign humor for safety

COLUMBUS, Ohio — The Ohio Department of Transportation is working to encourage drivers to stay safe and to smile.

Drivers may have seen some of the recent humorous digital roadway signs with messages such as “Camp in Ohio state parks, not the left lane,” and “Visiting in-laws? Slow down, get there late.”

Department spokesman Matt Bruning, who has authored a few of the messages, told The Blade in Toledo that officials are simply trying to humanize what the agency does.

“We are a government agency, but we are a government agency with a sense of humor,” he said.

Ohio was inspired by other states to create the signs after seeing an increase in traffic fatalities, Bruning said.

ODOT shared photos of some of their signs with 10TV.

There is now an informal committee that brainstorms ideas and a website where citizens can contribute at zerodeaths.ohio.gov. The signs display the humorous messages on Wednesdays during off-peak hours and on weekends.

The messages generally consist of two rotating sign panels. The panels can hold three lines each of 17 characters, including spaces, for a total of 51 characters.

Some people have complained that the signs are a distraction, but overall they have gotten positive feedback, Bruning said. He said there’s no indication the signs have been blamed for any crashes.

Some messages didn’t quite hit the mark, such as a New Year-themed sign that read “Drive hammered. Get nailed.”

Bruning said that message likely will not reappear “because ‘get nailed’ has more meaning than just getting arrested.”

While the department has fun with the signs, Bruning said the goal is to spark conversations on driver safety.

“It resonates with people,” said Col. Paul Pride, superintendent of the State Highway Patrol.

“Some of them are a little humorous, but it gets their attention,” Pride said. “If we can use just a pinch of humor from time to time to get somebody’s attention and help change behavior — absolutely it works.”

More on ODOT, here.

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