PHOENIX — The words on the electronic signs along Arizona’s freeways are the subject of a bill moving through the state legislature -- specifically what is allowed to be displayed and what’s not on the signs managed by the Arizona Department of Transportation.
The signs have captured the attention of motorists by exhibiting messages that range from practical travel times to humorous slogans promoting driving safety, as well as 'no burn day' notices.
“They’re creative and people pay attention and then they talk about them,” one driver told 12News.
“They have entertained me as I’m going,” Ryan Linder said.
On Friday, the Arizona House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure passed a bill 7-4 that would limit what can go on those signs.
“What we’re worried about is, is the government effectively using it as a kind of advertisement for other things,” bill sponsor Rep. Neal Carter, R-District 15, told the committee.
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Carter said the primary focus of the bill is only to allow the signs to display messages related to transportation.
“We’re just trying to make sure that we don’t have cluttered signs, really, it’s supposed to mirror the applicable federal regulations and just be related to transportation,” Carter told 12News.
ADOT told 12News in an email the agency follows the national standard for the messages.
“On extremely rare occasions, messages related to public safety, Line of Duty Deaths, “No Burn Day” messages, and messages placed for state and national parks, or the US Forest Service related to wildfires are displayed,” the email from ADOT’s public information office added.
It’s those things like public health messages, ‘no burn day’ messages, and Line of Duty deaths that wouldn’t be allowed under the bill.
“Our concern is that when someone sees that someone’s listed on the sign, there will be others who will want to be listed on the sign, and then other messages going forward,” Carter said.
Some drivers agree that the messages the measure seeks to ban can be distracting.
“I personally don’t think it’s a good place for them,” Leara Potestio said. “If you want to spread the word maybe spread it on social media, news, something like that. But I don’t think driving is going to get the message across.”
However, others see it as an opportunity with not everyone on social media or watching other outlets.
“It’s a good source of information and somewhere where people are sort of a captive audience and people are able to learn a little bit of something by them,” Linder said.
If the bill passes through both chambers of the Arizona Legislature and is signed into law, the transportation-related signs with or without humor would still stay.
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