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No, funny highway signs in Texas are not banned, feds say

 The I-30 interchange at State Highway 360 finally opened for service on Dec. 21 2023.
The I-30 interchange at State Highway 360 finally opened for service on Dec. 21 2023.

Funny highway signs are not leaving Texas roadways anytime soon — despite numerous reports to the contrary.

When the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration adopted its latest traffic control manual in December — which included a section on safety messages on changeable message signs — news publications and social media users shared the news that humorous or pop culture references on highway safety messages would be banned under the manual.

However, FHWA officials told KERA News the manual does not ban humor or popular culture references on changeable message signs.

“Rather, it includes a recommendation to avoid the use of humor and pop culture references in changeable message signs that may confuse or distract drivers,” a FHWA spokesperson said in an email.

Electronic highway signs are used by states and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for safety messaging campaigns.

The NHTSA has its share of quippy highway messages planned this year.

For the Super Bowl on Feb. 11, the primary highway message will be, “Fans don’t let fans drive drunk,” according to its 2024 calendar.

Planned Fourth of July messaging includes, “Drive High, Get a DUI” and “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over.”

The Texas Department of Transportation has made its own share of light-hearted highway signs in recent years.

Signs like, “The eyes of TX are upon you, buckle up,” “Only Rudolph should drive lit,” and “All you need is love and a seatbelt” are some of the messages that drivers have seen on Texas highways since 2018.

The San Antonio Report previously reported that TxDOT uses the signs as a “clever and creative” way to grab the attention of drivers and reinforce good driving habits.

While the FHWA’s new manual is intended to be each state’s standard for traffic control devices within two years, federal officials said it’s up to state and local agencies to use good judgement on messaging.

A FHWA spokesperson said messaging should “convey a clear, simple message; command respect; and provide adequate time for proper response.”

The manual’s recommendation — and subsequent fuss — will not change TxDOT’s messaging approach.

“Our message board signs along Texas highways are a great tool to show important safety information to drivers,” Adam Hammons, TxDOT media relations director, wrote in a statement. “Every message we post includes a safety component and we will continue to do that.”

Copyright 2024 KERA. To see more, visit KERA.

Megan Cardona