Funny highway signs are banned starting this week. Womp, womp.

A roadside safety sign in Mississippi reading "Texting and driving? Say it: I'm the problem it's me."
A Mississippi highway safety sign with a reference to Taylor Swift's hit song "Anti-Hero."Courtesy of the Mississippi Department of Transportation
  • The US Federal Highway Administration is banning jokes and pop-culture references on highway signs.

  • States must stop using playful safety messages like "seatbelts always pass the vibe check" by 2026.

  • The agency says humor can be confusing or "adversely affect respect for the sign."

Some highway signs crack jokes, use puns, or riff off Taylor Swift lyrics to remind drivers to be safe.

Enjoy them while you can.

The US Federal Highway Administration has ordered all 50 states to stop putting messages on electronic signs that "are intended to be humorous," reference pop culture, or could overall "adversely affect respect for the sign."

New Jersey Department of Transportation roadside safety sign which says: "We'll be blunt, don't drive high."
A New Jersey Department of Transportation roadside safety sign features a pun about cannabis.Courtesy of the New Jersey Department of Transportation

Instead, safety messages on changeable signs should be "simple, direct, brief, legible, and clear," the agency said in a 1,100-page manual published in December.

The new standards go into effect on January 18, but states have two years to adopt them.

large black electronic sign reads "use yah blinkah" over a highway with cars
The Massachusetts Department of Transportation has posted the message "Changing Lanes? Use Yah Blinkah" on highway signs in Boston.Michael Dwyer/AP Photo

State highway officials and sign-writers argue that the jokes grab attention, but federal regulators have said they are risky in two ways: they're distracting, and not everybody can understand them.

States including New Jersey, Ohio, and Massachusetts have leaned into crafting quirky, funny, or holiday-themed messages.

An Ohio Department of Transportation roadside safety sign that says: "Visiting the in-laws? Slow down. Get there late."
The Ohio Department of Transportation started using the signs in 2015. Messages have included “Don't Drive Sauced, Leave It To The Cranberries," and “Santa sees you when you’re speeding!"Courtesy of the Ohio Department of Transportation

The Arizona Department of Transportation even holds an annual competition for new traffic safety messages. In 2023, residents submitted over 3,700 ideas. The winners were "I'm just a sign asking a driver to use turn signals" and "Seatbelts always pass the vibe check."

"I hope the message makes people chuckle and happy that they are wearing a seatbelt: you pass the vibe check!" Elise Riker, an Arizona resident who submitted one of the winning ideas, said in a press release.

Not all playful safety messages have been so beloved.

The Wall Street Journal reported that one controversial message — "Get your head out of your apps" — had to be retracted from signs in Colorado after some residents complained.

"You don't want to be widely provocative," Sam Cole, who manages safety communications for Colorado's Department of Transportation, told the Journal. "You want to be memorable and you want to generate conversation at the family dinner table."

The new federal manual offers a few examples of language that would be acceptable for highway safety messaging under its standards, such as "No hand-held phone by driver" or "State law fasten seat belts."

Read the original article on Business Insider