WILMINGTON, Del. — The Delaware Department of Transportation has our attention now.
This holiday season, the department is getting a tip of the hat for the message boards on Delaware highways noting, among other holiday tips, that "Santa is watching. Drive sober. Drive safe."
Another favorite is, "Only reindeer can fly. Watch your speed."
That message came directly from the top.
State Department of Transportation Secretary Jennifer Cohan suggested it at a December meeting, Mark Luszcz, the department's chief traffic engineer said.
"We put (the lighter) messages up when there isn't a more critical message that needs to be shown," he said. "Those might include messages about weather, construction or crashes."
Luszcz said the department has been using the message boards the last few years. What is new are the general safety messages disguised as witticisms to grab drivers' attention.
"We've gotten good feedback that people are looking at them and talking about them and letting us know the messages are being read," he said. "We have had a couple of complaints with people telling us we shouldn't try to be clever, but those are few and far between."
No Madison Avenue marketing firm has been hired, either.
"It's mostly our staff brainstorming ideas and then sending the messages on for approval," he said. "We're just trying to be a little bit more creative to get somebody's attention."
While some of the humorous messages have come from Cohan and her staff, other more traditional safety messages bringing attention to fatalities and crashes have come from a relationship with the Delaware Office of Highway Safety and the Delaware State Police, Luszcz said.
Drivers on major highways and roadways in Delaware will be seeing more messages related to distracted driving, speeding, drunken driving, seatbelt use and fatalities. Luszcz said it's a statewide strategic safety plan.
One message that has garnered a lot of attention has been geared toward distracted driving: "Don't text and drive. Get your head out of your apps."
Many of the boards along Interstate 95 and Delaware Route 1 contain the message: "119 fatalities on Delaware roads in 2017. Please drive carefully."
"We are currently working on a calendar of proposed messages for 2018," Luszcz said. "We will have a pre-planned schedule that will line up with the Office of Highway Safety when they roll out their initiatives."
Some of them are go-to messages for the Department of Transportation during the summer construction season, such as "Respect the orange and black" or "Slow down, stay alert in a work zone."
"We have our standard safety and educational messages we've been using for years now, but we really want to be more creative in the future," Luszcz said.
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