One of the new creative signs the Maine Department of Transportation is using to get drivers’ attention and combat distracted driving.

They’d like you to be safe. And if you laugh, even better.

The last three months, the Maine Department of Transportation officials have started using short, funny notes on oversized highway signs to get drivers’ attention and combat distracted driving.

It started in December with, “Santa sees you when you’re speeding.”

The newest sign, unveiled on Friday: “Turn signals, the original instant message.”

The signs are spread along I-295 and north of mile 109 on the turnpike.

“We don’t want to always be wagging a finger at somebody,” DOT spokesman Ted Talbot said. “It’s cute, it’s funny and, you know what, we hope it’s effective as a reminder. That’s really our angle and what we’re trying to accomplish is really more of an awareness.”

Advertisement

He said the signs and lowering the speed limit on a stretch of I-295, announced earlier this week, are both immediate steps the state can take to address distracted and aggressive driving, as well as accidents and congestions along I-295 in particular.

The DOT owns 29 variable message boards but only six are sizable. Talbot said the plan over the next two years is to replace the smaller signs with larger ones and, at the same time, start to replace the flashing 45 mph signs with those variable message boards.

Placed before each exit, signs might give drivers’ estimated travel times or warnings about an accident ahead in addition to reduced speed limits or safety messages.

“A flashing 45 isn’t exactly always the message we want to convey,” Talbot said. “Yes, we do that in inclement weather, and people know that, but we want to be much more dynamic with our messaging, both for safety and for awareness.”

He didn’t have an estimated cost for the project but said DOT already has funds within its budget.

To make way for the “turn signals” note, the DOT this week retired the Valentine’s Day-themed, “Love is blind. Driving is not. Focus people.”

Talbot said they’ve come, so far, from brainstorming sessions among himself, DOT Chief Engineer Joyce Taylor, State Traffic Engineer Steve Landry and creative services manager Meg Lane.

“We’ve gotten wonderful feedback,” he said. “We may have a contest down the road, motorists can email us some phrases.”

[email protected] 

Comments are not available on this story.