A new era dawns on American highways as the U.S. Federal Highway Administration enforces a change, phasing out humorous and quirky messages from electronic signs across the nation’s roads and freeways.
This move comes as part of a broader initiative outlined in the agency’s newly released 1,100-page manual, which states have two years to implement.
Ban on humorous electronic road signs set for 2026 to enhance driver safety
The administration, a branch of the U.S. Department of Transportation, has clarified that by 2026, overhead electronic signs displaying messages with obscure meanings or humorous content will be banned.
According to officials, the rationale behind this decision is to reduce misunderstandings and distractions for drivers.
The agency emphasizes that signage should be “simple, direct, brief, legible and clear,” focusing solely on conveying essential information such as crash warnings, weather conditions, traffic delays, seatbelt reminders, and cautions against speeding or impaired driving.
Humorous road signs to disappear as U.S. shifts to standardized messaging
Well-known messages like Massachusetts’ “Use Yah Blinkah” and Ohio’s “Visiting in-laws? Slow down, get there late,” Pennsylvania’s “Don’t drive Star Spangled Hammered,” New Jersey’s “Hocus pocus, drive with focus,” and Arizona’s “Hands on the wheel, not your meal” will soon be a thing of the past.
Arizona, in particular, has been known for its creative approach to highway signage.
Over the past seven years, the state Department of Transportation has conducted a contest to find the most humorous and imaginative messages, attracting over 3,700 entries last year alone, with winners like “Seat Belts always pass a vibe check” and “I’m just a sign asking drivers to use turn signals.”
Mixed responses to ban on humorous road signs
The decision has garnered mixed reactions. State Rep. David Cook, a Republican from Globe, Arizona, expressed his fondness for the humorous approach, telling Phoenix TV station CBS 5, “The humor part of it, we kind of like. I think in Arizona, the majority of us do, if not all of us.”
Cook questioned the need for federal intervention in this matter, voicing his concern, “Why are you trying to have the federal government come in and tell us what we can do in our own state? Prime example that the federal government is not focusing on what they need to be.”
U.S. shifts from humorous to straightforward road signs,
As the U.S. prepares for this shift in highway communication, the debate continues over the balance between humor and safety on the road.
The change marks an end to a unique chapter of American roadside culture, as officials prioritize direct and straightforward messaging over witty and engaging content.