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Maine senator pushes back against funny highway sign ban

U.S. Sen. Angus King. Mariam Zuhaib / AP, File

Sen. Angus King of Maine criticized the Department of Transportation earlier this month after the agency restricted “funny” highway signs.

According to the senator, signs that cut through the noise are not the problem, and he implored the department and Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg to reconsider their priorities.

In a letter to ButtigiegKing wrote that while legislation to improve road safety is important, “that does not include a ban on signs which through humor or wit attempt to give their messages a bit of fresh tread.”

The senator referenced a “mile-long backup” of road safety issues that must be prioritized before punny road signs. New car models consistently house multimedia screens that cause distracted driving, and impaired driving continue to risewhile drivers purchase larger, heavier cars to use on roads that prioritize speed over safety, he wrote.

In an unscientific Boston.com Community poll78% of readers disagreed with the ban on highway signs, too.

King asked two questions to Buttigieg:

1. Will you commit that the Department of Transportation, and subagencies therein, will not sanction or discourage, formally or informally, states which use humor or pop culture references while conveying an otherwise appropriate safety message?

2. Will you commit that the Department of Transportation, and subagencies therein, will not withhold or threaten to withhold funding to states which use humor or pop culture references while conveying an otherwise appropriate safety message?

While the senator awaits a response, the safety manual by the Federal Highway Administration containing the restriction remains in place.

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