Las Vegas Sun

October 17, 2021

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Tongue-in-cheek messages on NDOT highway signs aim to curb bad road manners

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Christopher DeVargas

A message board along the 215 Beltway near the Stephanie Street exit uses a little humor to encourage safe driver behavior. The Nevada Department of Transportation is using similar signs on highways across the state in its latest public safety effort.

Witty slogans on Las Vegas freeway signs might be good for some laughs, but the hope is they save some lives too, transportation officials said.

The slogans started appearing last week on electronic signs on highways across Nevada: “That’s the temperature, not the speed limit,” “Camp in the mountains, not the left lane,” and “Turn signals come free with vehicles. Use them.”

Last year, the Nevada Department of Transportation asked drivers to submit entries for funny messages to be displayed on some 400 NDOT signs, spokeswoman Adrienne Packer said. In Las Vegas, the messages have been displayed on signs on Interstate 15, the 215 Beltway and U.S. 95.

The department received nearly 1,000 submissions, and an NDOT committee narrowed them down to 11 finalists. The public selected the winners.

The slogans are a humorous way to remind Nevadans of safe driving practices, and the signs can be changed instantly to convey more pressing information, such as traffic delays or a crash.

The slogans were supposed to debut last year, but the campaign was delayed so the signs could be used to promote masking and COVID-19 vaccinations, Packer said.

The signs are also making the rounds on social media. The Twitter account @NoContextVegas recently posted a photo of one of the signs and got nearly 600 retweets and over 4,100 likes.

Humor is an effective way to reach people, said Erin Breen, director of UNLV’s Road Equity Alliance Project. And when a campaign gets hits on social media — especially among younger users — it could potentially save lives, she said.

“To put it bluntly, those are the people we want to reach, especially young men,” Breen said. “We look at the demographic from 16 to 34, and they are at the highest risk.”

Last year, 315 people were killed in traffic crashes in Nevada, and speeding was a factor in about 35% of those wrecks, according to NDOT. More than 90% of crashes nationwide are caused by driver behavior such as speeding or driving impaired, distracted or recklessly.

Andrew Bennett, a spokesman for the Nevada Office of Traffic Safety, said the signs could get people talking about traffic safety.

“Those signs and those messages are being shared and creating a conversation,” Bennett said. “Short and memorable things sell.”

Marla Stafford, a marketing professor at UNLV, said she had noticed the signs and had been showing them to students as an example of an effective public campaign.

“They’re quite humorous and they get your attention, which is the first step in anything when it comes to advertising,” said Stafford, a dean at UNLV’s Hospitality College.

“What you’re doing is creating buzz … and when you have that, people will start talking about it and people will start thinking about it,” Stafford said.