MnDOT adds clever messages to highway signs to get your attention

It's not just you – the signs are more charming than usual.

If the road signs seem a bit wittier than usual, it's because Minnesota officials are trying to bring attention to safe driving.

According to a news release, the signs are part of a new campaign called "Message Monday" by Toward Zero Deaths (the state's traffic safety program).

The electronic signs (which are located above freeways and other high-traffic roads) have already been used to display messages about road conditions, speed limits, construction work, and things like extra law enforcement. But these new messages are meant to start conversations.

The first Message Monday (in the photo above) debuted Nov. 14 – it said "Don't fumble your life away. Buckle up!"

Why do we need them?

Traffic fatalities have not gone down significantly in the past five years, MnDOT said, and the department wants to change that. The signs are a new and innovative way to educate motorists on traffic safety risks like speeding, drunk driving, distractions, and aggressive behavior.

But do signs really make a difference? The department says the new signs could possibly help reduce fatalities and serious injuries – they pointed to a recent survey from the U.S. Department of Transportation which found that 45 to 68 percent of motorists indicated that safety-related messages caused changes in their driving behavior.

“We believe the signs have potential to change driver behavior while they are driving," Jay Hietpas, MnDOT state traffic engineer and cochair of the TZD leadership committee said in the release.

MnDOT joins a growing number of states like Iowa that have added a bit of humor to their signs in hopes of changing risky behaviors behind the wheel.

There are 180 of these signs in the Twin Cities’ Metro area and 100 in Greater Minnesota, the department says. About half of them in the cities will display Monday Messages during off-peak hours on Mondays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., and after 7 p.m. on roadways with higher traffic. In other locations, the messages will be displayed between midnight and noon.

Some future ones you might see include “Driving drowsy could wreck the holidays,” “Friends don’t text friends who are driving,” and “Turn signals – the original instant message.”

MnDOT plans to use references from movies, TV shows, music and pop culture, the Star Tribune said, and motorists will be able to submit suggestions.

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