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End of the road for humorous highway signs as new rules set in

The days of chuckling at clever messages on highway electronic signs are coming to an end as the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) clamps down on the use of humorous and culturally obscure references.

The big picture: An extensive 1,100-page manual released by the FHWA outlines numerous changes for traffic control devices, with a mandate for states to curtail nonstandard, entertaining content on changeable message signs (CMS) by 2026.

By the numbers: States have two years to fall in line with the new guidelines that deem current playful phrases like "Use Yah Blinkah" or "Hocus pocus, drive with focus" as potentially confusing or distracting to drivers.

  • Important safety messages such as crash notifications, weather condition alerts, traffic delays, and reminders about seatbelt use, speeding, and impaired driving will still be displayed using clear, straightforward language.
  • Arizona, which previously ran an annual contest for the wittiest road sign messages, attracting over 3,700 submissions last year, will bid farewell to this engagement practice.

Local resistance: Arizona State Rep. David Cook expressed discontent with the federal directive, suggesting that it's an overreach and distracts from more pressing governmental matters.

The bottom line: While some see this move as a step toward ensuring clarity and safety on roadways, others view it as a loss of a quirky method of engaging drivers and fostering community interaction.

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