The Backpage: Signs for our times

Monday, June 11, 2012 at 1:15pm
By Steven Hale
0611 road signs main 2.jpg

(Eric England/SouthComm)


If during your morning or afternoon commute, you glance up at one of the many big glowing signs, positioned around the 440 loop and on highways across the state, you’ll see a message alerting drivers to the amount of traffic fatalities in Tennessee this year. As of press time, that number was 425 and, unfortunately, always rising. (If you glance a little longer — why are you still looking away from the road? — you’ll see another message from the state’s Department of Transportation: a warning about distracted driving. For the sake of irony, please don’t have an accident while reading about distracted driving.)

This Digital Messaging Signage — the technical term, we’re told — is funded by the Federal Highway Administration. It is generally used to remind drivers of ongoing road policies: “Click it or Ticket” for example, or “Booze it, Lose It.” But in recent months, road fatality statistics have been added to the mix. While the 151 signs only appear in urban highway areas, the number reflects every traffic death, whether on a highway, a city road or a driveway.

TDOT Highway Safety Office director Kendell Poole told The City Paper the decision to add the statistics to the signs was prompted by an uptick in fatalities. A record low 947 people died on Tennessee’s roads in 2011. But over the first three months of 2012, there were about 50 more deaths than in the same months last year. After seeing road deaths decrease by 33 percent over the last seven years, Poole said, the department didn’t want to see the trend reversed. He believes the signs have had a positive effect, so far.  

It goes without saying, of course, that users of TDOT’s forthcoming smartphone traffic app should avoid doing so on the road.

4 Comments on this post:

By: Rocket99 on 6/12/12 at 9:41

While this is maybe a good thing, I think a better use of these signs is warning drivers of traffic delays, construction and other road hazards. When you get caught in a 30 minute + traffic snarl because they are telling you how many have died this year instead of the construction ahead, your mind isn't really on the death count. It's on, "Why didn't they warn us about the north loop being closed?"

Since these are "Smart Signs", they need to be SMART in what they put on them.

By: bfra on 6/13/12 at 3:13

This will do nothing about the ones that can't speak or read English!

By: MusicCity615 on 6/13/12 at 8:02

The more mass transit options we have, the less dependent Nashvillians are of their cars.

By: Radix on 6/14/12 at 8:38

I think its a great idea, but instead of "Don't be the next one" it should say "Don't CAUSE the next one" because that is usually how it goes...

We could also try "Use your freakin' turn signals when you change lanes" and maybe "Don't drive like a butthead" "Don't cut people off" "Know what HOV means?"

I've lived all over, and though its getting better, Tennessee has the worst drivers I have ever seen.