Breaking Bad Habits

Jan. 1, 2023
The secret to success is sassy signage and stern grandmas

 Snarky safety messages that debuted on New Jersey highway signs in October had too much Jersey attitude for federal officials.

“The [New Jersey Department of Transportation] wanted to be more creative in how we present our safety messages,” NJDOT spokeswoman Leanna Nelson told “We are trying a few new messages that are both fun and catchy in hopes that people will remember the message to drive safely.”

The messages were deployed across the state’s network of 215 digital alert signs on highways and interstates. 

Despite positive feedback from motorists, the NJDOT was contacted by the Federal Highway Administration in November and told to remove them. 

The list of banned messages includes:

Don’t cruise boozed.

Hocus pocus — drive with focus.

We’ll be blunt — don’t drive high.

Get your head out of your apps.

Slow down. This ain’t Thunder Road.

Nice car. Did it come with a turn signal?

A lack of explanation for the ban inspired a bipartisan effort by New Jersey’s congressional members, who collectively wrote a letter to the Federal Highway Administration in late November demanding to know why the messages were being banned. 

After all, snarky signs are still allowed to display in far less sassy states like Pennsylvania (“Only Rudolph should drive lit — plan a sober ride”), Utah (“It’s a lane, not a birthright — let them merge”), and Delaware (“Who you gonna call? No one. You’re driving”).

By accident or design

A driver’s choice of car brand can say a lot about their personality, as well as their driving habits. In fact, research shows that drivers who are more likely to cause a traffic accident have a specific taste in vehicles. 

Researchers at insurance shopping website reviewed over 4.6 million car insurance applications to identify the five automotive brands with the most accidents in 2022.

Ram truck drivers can proudly claim to have the largest percentage of at-fault accidents in 2022. Among drivers of the brand’s worst offender, the RAM 3500, 14.1% have an at-fault accident on their record, a whopping 53% more than the national average of 9.25%.

While Subaru has a reputation for making some of the safest vehicles on the road, Subaru drivers cause accidents at the second-highest rate in the nation. Nearly 11% of Subaru owners report an at-fault accident on record.

Volkswagen drivers followed closely behind at 10.5%, with Mazda (10.4%) and Hyundai (10.3%) rounding out the worst five. 

The safest brand? Volvo drivers have the lowest accident rate at just 5.8%, 37% lower than the national average.

Idling the car away 

On cold winter mornings, many of us like to start our cars and let them warm up before hopping in to drive.

While a cozy cabin is a wonderful creature comfort, it’s actually illegal to leave your car idling while unattended in most states. 

The biggest concern is unnecessary air pollution, but as Lincoln, NE, proved, unattended idling can also lead to property damage, kidnapping, and angry grandmas. 

Lincoln police say that a recent crime spree began when three teenage car thieves swiped a 2007 VW Jetta that they found unlocked and idling early one morning.

Looking for an upgrade, the group stopped at an Ace Hardware where one of the thieves hopped into an Acura that was also idling unattended.

After crashing the Acura into a Ford pickup, the group drove to a Vietnamese restaurant where they found another unattended idling vehicle. Two of the thieves jumped in and began driving away, not realizing that a grandma and three children were sitting in the backseat. 

“The grandmother yelled at them which caused them to crash into the building,” Lincoln Police Department Captain Todd Kocian told 1011 CBS. 

The teens jumped back into the Jetta and drove to an SJ’s Smoke Shop where they swiped an unattended idling Chrysler 200 and haven’t been seen since.

When asked for advice on how to encourage drivers to stop leaving their idling vehicles unattended, the NJDOT suggested highway road sign messages like “Don’t be a jerk, stop warming up your car before work!” R&B

About the Author

David Matthews

David Matthews has been chronicling the unexpectedly humorous side of transportation news for his Roads Report column since 2000. The stories are all true.

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