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Government bringing an end to the fun that is “humorous” messages on electronic road signs

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The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has issued a ban on “humorous,” “obscure,” and otherwise “nonstandard” messages on electronic road signs that will go into effect within the next few years. 

The FHWA outlined a collection of new changes to highway rules in a 1,100 page manual last month, and will give states two years to implement the changes. The new standard for electronic road signs, or changeable message signs (CMS), has been released as part of the manual. 

The newly released manual states the following about the signs: 

“The FHWA recommended that messages with obscure meaning, references to popular culture, that are intended to be humorous, or otherwise use nonstandard syntax for a traffic control device, not be displayed because they can be misunderstood or understood only by a limited segment of road users and, therefore, degrade the overall effectiveness of the sign as an official traffic control device. The FHWA proposed a Standard that only traffic safety campaign messages that are part of an active, coordinated safety campaign that uses other media forms as its primary means of outreach be displayed on CMS, such that the CMS message would be a supplement to the overall campaign that employs other media and/or tools to promote the message.”

Messages on these signs will be required to be traffic and safety related using “simple, direct, brief, legible and clear” language by 2026, reported AP News.

“FHWA believes these are important considerations as not to diminish respect for the sign when used in other traffic-related scenarios for regulatory, warning, and guidance under prevailing conditions.”

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