No more laughs. The orange electronic messages on highways are about to take on a more serious tone. Federal officials plan to prohibit the use of comedic messaging on these signs by 2026.
To enhance safety for those on the road, new regulations mandate signage convey information in an objective tone. Officials are to only display tactical information pertaining to accidents, traffic delays, or adverse weather. In a city with so many traffic and weather advisories related to being out on the road, officials want to send a straightforward message to drivers, especially when they’re out of state and might not understand the context of these comedic signs.
The administration notes that the humorous signs may pose a distraction to drivers. However, the ban is not just for Massachusetts or Boston, but rather a nationwide movement set to go into full effect by 2026.
You’ve likely seen some of these comedic, inside-joke signs before. Bostonians might find WICKED BIG STAWM COMIN’ or USE YAH BLINKAH sprawled out in bright orange letters when traveling east on I-90.
“Messages with obscure or secondary meanings,” the manual reads, “such as those with popular culture references, unconventional sign legend syntax, or that are intended to be humorous, should not be used as they might be misunderstood or understood only by a limited segment of road users and require greater time to process and understand.”
The over 1,000- page document titled Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices for Streets and Highways (MUTCD), offers dozens of updated guidelines pertaining to traffic devices and highway signs.
“The new MUTCD gives greater consideration to all road users, who deserve to be safe when traveling on our streets and roads,” Federal Highway Administrator, Shailen Bhatt stated in a press release. “It will also help improve the public’s travel experience whether driving on an Interstate or crossing the street in cities and towns across America.”