Highways DOT-ted with Laughter

In my last post, I talked about blue highway exit signs. This week’s addition to our Signs of Summer series is about a more hi-tech evolution in road signs – the electronic DOT (Department of Transportation) marquees. Typically, these signs are used to communicate traffic information, emergencies, or road conditions. When not in use for immediate updates or warnings, the signs often display safety reminders or local weather information.

But, when two of the cleverest comedy minds in Iowa happened to find themselves behind desks at the Department of Transportation, they used their powers to get drivers laughing. Willy Sorenson and Tracey Bramble, Iowa DOT employees, say they spend hours brainstorming and coming up with short messages to make drivers smile.

Every Monday morning, drivers are treated to a new quip. Favorites include:

  • Get your head out of your apps; drive safely.
  • Not buckled? You’re killing me Smalls.
  • Tailgating is for football, not highways.
  • Santa’s coming have you been a good driver?
  • Texting & driving is clever said no one ever.
  • Not buckled? Seriously??
  • Hey Bobblehead, stop looking at your phone.
  • Does your blinker not work, or what?
  • Nobody puts Baby in a hot car. (which debuted the same week as the local stage performance of Dirty Dancing)
  • May the 4th be with you, text I will not. (which appeared on May 4th, Star Wars Day)

Bramble and Sorenson are passionate about more than just comedy. They believe they can use humor in order to reach drivers about important safety lessons. Texting and driving, child safety, and sober driving are all causes that the pair believe they can address with humor and heart.

And they’re not the only ones! With photos of the signs hitting social media, DOT employees nationwide have started taking their work seriously – by adding a laugh. Humorous messages on the DOT signs have appeared in over a dozen states, including this one in Massachusetts: “Use yah blinkah.”

I’m impressed by how brief they are with their jokes.  The signs only allow for three 18-character lines – which isn’t much space to make your point. Even Twitter offers users 140 characters; I can’t imagine getting your joke into just 54!

Have you been lucky enough to see any of these hilarious marquees on your summer trips or regular routes? I’d love to hear about the best ones you’ve seen – or hear your own ideas for traffic safety humor. (You can even make your own meme for them here.)

Fuel for Thought,
DOT Highway Humor