KGOU

Who Writes Oklahoma’s Highway Message Boards?

Jul 17, 2018

“Don’t be a stinker, use your blinker.”

 

 

“Did I do that? Don’t Urkel in the work zone.”

 

Oklahoma interstate signs have sported more than 100 different (often punny) safety messages like these in the past two years.

 The displays are part of an Oklahoma Department of Transportation project called Work Zone Wednesday started in 2016 to increase driver safety and awareness.  

“It’s kind of a creative writing challenge,” said Annahlyse Meyer, an ODOT public information officer who helps craft the weekly messages on the state’s 52 digital boards.

Meyer and a team of employees design the signs to meet specific criteria. Each screen can hold a maximum of three lines of text with 13 characters apiece and the goal is to fit all of the text in just two screen flashes.

The messages highlight unsafe driving behaviors like texting and driving, speeding and tailgating.

According to ODOT, more than 3.1 million drivers pass by the boards.

Past messages include “Don't Be a Ground Hog, Share the Road” in honor of Groundhog Day and “Work Zone is ‘Nacho’ Speed Zone” for Cinco De Mayo.

“We really want to try [to] connect with drivers while they’re most likely doing the behaviors they need to change,” Meyer said.

 

Many states across the U.S. have similar initiatives, including Texas and Colorado.

 

 

In Oklahoma, the signs have garnered a mostly positive response, with many drivers posting and sharing photos of the messages on social media.

Meyer said that is counterproductive.

“We’re trying to discourage people from using their phones behind the wheel,” she said. “So we’d hate for people to take pictures of [them] while driving.”