If you were driving on I-84 or I-87 in New York State on Saturday you may have been the butt of a joke that many believe is not a laughing matter.

I was traveling from Poughkeepsie to Pine Bush on Saturday when I saw it for the first time. Initially, I was a bit confused as I drove under an overpass on I-84. As I continued through Orange County I saw it again and then it connected. I chuckled to myself and instantly wished I could have captured a picture.

Critics complain that my reaction is the exact reason why this joke should never have happened. The federal government has even weighed in on why they believe traffic officials need to stop the practice immediately.


Roadside Jokes on Saturday Met with Criticism

In honor of May the Fourth, otherwise known as Star Wars Day, electronic signs on highways across the state were changed to messages themed around the movie franchise. One of the flashing signs I saw was written in Yoda-speak, saying "Drive slowly you must, Arrive safely you will". You can find photos of the sign online, as well as another that says "Leave light speed to Han Solo."

My social media was full of photos from drivers who, like me, saw the signs and wanted to share them with others. While I didn't whip out my camera while driving, apparently many other people did, and that's just one criticism aimed at the DOT from national safety experts.

Federal Government Scolds Local Officials Behind Humorous Road Signs

In January, the federal government made the unprecedented step of publicly criticizing local governments for irresponsibly using electronic road signs. While stopping short of making the practice illegal, the Federal Highway Administration is urging states to stop the practice of flashing joke signs on public roads.


The proof that these signs are dangerous can be found on social media. Countless photos of the Star Wars signs were taken by drivers who were not supposed to have their cameras out while driving. Proponents of the signs claim that the messages draw attention to important issues, but experts say there's no proof that a funny sign will make anyone more likely to drive safely. In fact, the Federal Highway Administration has officially recommended against using them at all.

In January, the federal agency released guidelines advising states to avoid humorous messages on changeable signs.

The FHWA recommended that messages with obscure meaning, references to popular culture, that are intended to be humorous, or otherwise use nonstandard syntax for a traffic control device, not be displayed because they can be misunderstood or understood only by a limited segment of road users and, therefore, degrade the overall effectiveness of the sign as an official traffic control device.

Aside from being confusing, traffic experts say the joke messages can take drivers' focus off the road and encourage people to use their phones while driving. In a world where there are already so many distractions for drivers, The Department of Transportation's decision to add something else to pull eyes from the road is frustrating to many safety advocates.


Opinion Changed

While some states, such as New York, have blatantly ignored the government's advice, others say it's time the Department of Transportation takes a step back to reevaluate the practice of posting humorous signs on the highway. Personally, I never had a problem with them until I saw so many photos of the signs this weekend. To me, the chance of someone pulling out a camera and being temporarily distracted while driving 65 miles per hour next to the car I was driving with my family isn't worth the dumb joke.

If all drivers were reasonable and responsible people, these signs wouldn't be an issue. But, unfortunately, the world is full of idiots and we're only as safe as the dumbest one of them. If there's something we can do to keep that menace on the road from killing us, why would we blatantly ignore it for something so dumb?

Maybe it is time for the New York State Department of Transportation to leave the lame jokes to professional comedians and focus on keeping all of us safer.

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12 Of New York State's Most Wanted Criminals- May 2024

Below are individuals wanted by the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision's (DOCCS) Office of Special Investigations who have been designated as its Most Wanted Fugitives. They should be considered armed and dangerous. This list is current as of 5/01/2024:

NEVER attempt to apprehend a fugitive yourself. If you have information on the location of any of these fugitives, you can contact OSI 24 hours a day / 7 days a week to report it. All leads and tips are treated as confidential information.

If an immediate response is necessary, such as you see the wanted person at a location, please call “911” and report it to the police.

Gallery Credit: Dave Wheeler