Editor's note: This story first ran in April 2018. We are republishing it now because chances are you may see a sign while driving this holiday weekend that reads "Don't Drive Sauced, Leave It To The Cranberries," or "Visiting In-Laws? Slow Down Get There Late," or, on Black Friday, "Don't Discount Your Seatbelt." Their aim? To make you chuckle, yes, but also to drive safe.
Glance at an electric overhead highway sign board this weekend in Ohio and you'll likely see an amusing message encouraging you not to text and drive.
"Texting and driving is not 'wreck-amended'" will run in honor of National Distracted Driving Month this April, though it won't be the first time the state's signs have gotten a little clever.
The Ohio Department of Transportation started using humor in 2015 when the state patrol came to them looking to reduce traffic deaths. The idea was to target the causes of serious accidents -- things like speeding and texting while driving -- in a way that makes people take notice.
"The reason we go for something humorous or a catchphrase is because we know people tend to remember those more," says ODOT spokesman Matt Bruning. "Messages like 'Click It or Ticket;' 'Drive Sober Or Get Pulled Over,' we've heard those for years and years. We're trying to find something that sends the same message but breaks through some of the noise people hear every day."
That includes messages like "Be A Firework Spark Responsible Driving," seen around July 4, and "Drive Egg-Cellent Some Bunny Needs You," as seen this past Easter. Bruning says a team brainstorms funny messages and takes recommendations from the public. They're usually pegged to particular events or holidays and generally run one weekend and one Wednesday a month.
Signs Of Success
Ohio isn't the first state to put such tactics to use, but the state has seen a benefit from the saucy signage. "We had a sign that said, 'That Seatbelt Looks Good On You' and someone wrote in to say that they were driving down I-90 in the Cleveland area and they looked over and saw the driver and the passengers in the next car reaching over and putting their seatbelts on, and they were chuckling," Bruning recalls. "Those stories far outweigh the very rare occasions when someone makes the wrong decision."
A "wrong decision" would be taking a picture of the sign and posting it to social media. Drivers who do this may get an "@ reply" from @ODOT_Statewide along the lines of, "That's a great shot, I hope you took it from the passenger seat."
As for those who say such signage only distracts drivers, Bruning counters: "Highway signs are part of the driving experience so you know where to go and what to do. That's really no different than what we're doing here."
In fact, there is one message other states have used but Bruning says you're not likely to see in Ohio due to that very reason.
"Other states have used 'Get Your Head Out Of Your Apps,' which I think is pretty funny," he says. "But the feedback we got from other states was that they were having a massive problem with people stopping and taking pictures of it."
See more examples of ODOT's amusing signs by clicking the photo at the top of the page.