Meet the team that imagines these funny Maine road signs
And when the New England Patriots were in the Superbowl in 2019, the team found all-time gems: “87 is the Gronk number – not the speed limit” and, after winning, “Both hands on. the steering wheel – admire all 6 ringtones.
“It has to be a safety message, and it has to be useful, but that doesn’t mean we can’t have fun with it,” Merrill said. “Whether you love them or hate them, you talk about them, whether it’s not using your phone and driving, buckling your seat belt, not speeding up or whatever. other. This elevates the discussion on road safety. “
The team, made up of Merrill, photographer Adam Grotton and digital media coordinator Michael Cole, regularly brainstorm ideas and also jot down things that come to their mind at random, adding them to their master list of ideas. Grotton is hoping that one day one of his hip-hop-themed sign ideas will come to light. But, given that the team prefers phrases to appeal to all ages, it might take a while for that to happen.
“I always submit them, and they are always refused,” said Grotton. “We have a wall of shame in the office where most of them live.”
There are also significant space limitations. On flashing road signs, there are only two programmed signs that the signs toggle between, each consisting of three lines of eight characters, including spaces. This means that words like “Thanksgiving” and “Halloween” are out of the question, and if it can’t be said in 48 characters, it just won’t work.
Fortunately, social media gives them unlimited space, as well as the added benefit of a whole lot of memes to parody on the internet.
And the team knows that when there’s something big, like dangerous weather or some other safety hazard, it’s time to dispense with the jokes and get straight to the point. There are state and federal laws regarding what can and cannot be displayed on a road sign, so whatever level of humor comes with it, it has to be public safety.
When the coronavirus pandemic arrived in Maine in March 2020, shortly thereafter, the Trump administration allowed the country’s transportation departments to post messages related to the pandemic on their road signs. Social distancing masks and puns like “Stay Wicked Fah Apaht” and “Spread the Facts, Not the Germs” have become the new task of the Maine DOT team.
“We are working with other agencies and spreading the message proposed by the CDC and the governor’s office to make sure they agree. I know one of the ideas was that of Commissioner Lambrew, ”said Merrill, referring to Department of Health and Social Services Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew.
Although they’ve asked the public for ideas for panels in the past – including a case a few years ago in which they received around 1,800 submissions – Merrill, Grotton, and Cole came up with the vast majority of panels.
“We get requests from other government agencies or businesses, but we have to turn them down,” Merrill said. “But it’s great that it has become a topic of conversation. If we can make sure people are talking about safety, then we’ve done our job. “