Motorists in California and around the country have become accustomed to humorous and sometimes quirky electronic highway signs that remind them to fasten their seat belts, obey the posted speed limit or maintain a safe distance. Most drivers seem to like these signs, but a government agency wants to eliminate them. In a 1,000-page report released in early 2024, the Federal Highway Administration (FHA) urged state lawmakers to do away with humorous or obscure highway signs.
The FHA conceded in its report that electronic highway signs are needed to warn drivers about accidents, traffic delays and poor weather and road conditions, but the agency called on state legislators to make sure that these signs are “simple, direct, brief, legible and clear.” A state representative from Arizona took exception to that advice and cited it as an example of federal government overreach. The Grand Canyon State has more than 300 electronic highway signs, and it holds a contest each year that allows residents to suggest creative and funny messages. A recent contest led to the “Hands on the wheel, not your meal” campaign.
Study shows distracting signs can be dangerous
Texas was one of the first states to install electronic highway signs. The Lone Star State now has more than 1,000 of the signs, and many of them are placed in accident hotspots. The signs tell drivers about fatalities on dangerous stretches of road, but a study conducted in 2022 reveals that they may be doing more harm than good. Researchers from Texas A&M University’s Transportation Institute studied motor vehicle accident data gathered between 2010 and 2017, and they discovered that accident fatalities actually rose by 8% on stretches of road where electronic signs were placed.
Roads are not playgrounds
Traffic accident fatalities have soared in recent years despite great advances in automobile safety and road design. Many states now place humorous or obscure messages on electronic highway signs to encourage motorists to slow down and drive safely, but at least one study suggests that these signs are making the problem worse. This may be why the FHA has urged state legislatures to refrain from placing funny or clever messages on highway signs. If you were injured by a distracted driver and would like to learn more about your legal options, contact us today to schedule a consultation.