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You may have chuckled, or you have just groaned. But you've likely seen the Missouri Department of Transportation's silly signs.

The electronic roadway signs use short messages with wit and humor (attempts at humor, anyway) to grab your attention and remind you about safe driving practices. The signs have ranged from "Did You Run Out of Blinker Fluid?" to "I Find Your Lack of Seatbelt Disturbing" to "That's the Temperature, Not the Speed Limit." Those are some of the better ones.

As we recently reported in a story by the Associated Press, a Missouri lawmaker wants to put the brakes on transportation officials' use of the playful messages.

"Those signs are hideously expensive, and MoDOT (the Missouri Department of Transportation) has a lot of incredibly detailed information they could share," Republican Rep. Tony Lovasco, of O'Fallon, said. "But rather than sharing that information with people, they make puns about Santa Claus."

Under a bill he recently introduced, MoDOT would be allowed to use the signs only to convey information about traffic conditions, weather or emergency alerts, the Springfield News-Leader reported.

In the AP story, Jon Nelson, assistant to the State Highway Safety and Traffic Engineer, said the signs display that sort of information when needed. However, he pointed out when the roads are clear, the department can "take the opportunity to let people know about simple things they can do to make Missouri a safer place to drive."

That seems to take the wind out of Lovasco's criticism that the signs could be used for more detailed or important information.

He said federal research suggests drivers notice the messages and think about what they've read.

"We like to think that it's making an impact," Nelson said.

We, also, believe the signs likely make a positive difference on Missouri roadways. They use gentle prodding along with humor to convey important messages. They're more likely to be read and acted upon than the more preachy or threatening signs. One such sign read "Hit a worker, $10,000 fine, lose your license."

Obviously, MoDOT's playful e-signs are just one of many tools to keep the roads safe. We believe they will make a positive difference or, at the very least, they don't appear to be hurting anything.

News Tribune

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