It’s difficult to be both funny and informative when talking about “road rage,” said Frank DePaola, administrator of MassDOT’s highway division. But state transportation officials decided to let motorists have a go at it.
In June, MassDOT kicked off a contest called “DOTSpeak,” a social media crowd-sourcing experiment where they asked residents to come up with new safety slogans addressing road rage, distracted driving, and seat belt use, and promised that the best sayings of those submitted would be displayed on the digital billboards hanging above state-run highways like the Mass. Turnpike and I-93.
The safety-slogan contest followed the successful roll out of a display-board message that went up in June and told drivers to “Use Yah Blinkah.” The spur-of-the moment, simple saying was so well received by drivers that images of the billboards soon went viral, and later got picked up by both local and national media outlets. In the end, the message did exactly what MassDOT had hoped it would do—get drivers to remember the rules of the road.
“We had a lot of public attention and discussion around it,” said DePaola. “It elevated the awareness of good driving habits.”
To try and mirror that success, MassDOT launched the contest, and during the course of just a few months they received more than 500 submissions, most of which played up the coveted Boston accent or used terminology heard only within the Massachusetts borders.
“Some were pretty funny. I liked them. There was some good creativity and also a lot of repeats,” DePaola said of the submissions. “Some of them we couldn’t use; they didn’t work so well. But I thought it was a good contest. ”
Of the hundreds of suggestions MassDOT received, a special panel within the transportation department’s offices was tasked with whittling the list down to the top three to be viewed by the public.
The first of those messages, a two-line phrase about holding back anger while behind the wheel, will start appearing above drivers’ vehicles beginning this weekend. DePaola said motorists can expect to see the phrase “Keep Calm and Drive On,” which was submitted by Allston resident Patrick Casey, blinking on the billboards soon.
Come Labor Day weekend, motorists will be greeted with another sign—this one about distracted driving, DePaola said. “Put Down the Phone. Your LOLs and OMGs Can Wait,” the signs will read. That message was created by Whitman resident Justin Lovell.
The third and final winning message, which will appear on Columbus Day weekend, was submitted by members of the Safe Roads Alliance, and will remind people to buckle up: “Make Yah Ma Proud, Wear Yah Seatbelt.”
Besides having their clever catchphrase appear on hundreds of billboards across the state, each winner will also receive a $50 gift card from service plaza partners like Burger King, Dunkin’ Donuts, Exxon Mobil, and McDonald’s, and Gulf will provide each winner with a $100 gift card, DePaola said.
There’s also a chance that the messages will make it into MassDOT’s regular rotation.
DePaola said he doesn’t expect these sayings to get quite as “caught up in that social media—whatever you want to call it” like the “Use Yah Blinkah” campaign, but he hopes the tongue-in-cheek approach is still able to make the safety messages stick out in people’s minds when traveling on state roads.
“The fact that people are talking about the public safety messages, hopefully they think about these things first next time before they do it,” he said.
“Need to Text? PAHK YA CAH!”
“U Waited 86 Yrs 4 the Sox. Keep Calm in Traffic”
“Let Your Tweet Take a Backseat”
“Broken Down? Use Yah Hazzid Lights”
“These Ahn’t Bumpah Cahs. Give Each Other Some Space”
“Breathe In, Breathe Out. Namaste”
“Storms Rage, Drivers Shouldn’t”
“Tailgate at Gillette, Not Here”
“Buckle Up, Folks. Use Yah Noggin”
“Don’t Point With Yah Middle Fingah”
“Gettin’ Heated? Settle Down”
Source URL: https://www.bostonmagazine.com/news/2014/08/14/massdot-highway-sign-messages/
Copyright ©2021 Boston Magazine unless otherwise noted.