America’s most notable road signs

January 30, 2014

With news breaking last week on Montana’s gorgeous new “Welcome to Montana” highway signs, we thought it an appropriate time to reflect on some of the U.S.’s most interesting, curious, or otherwise notable highway signs. (As for Montana, the new signs will feature landscapes of the rocky Badlands, haunting photos of dinosaur remains, and images of the state’s wildlife. Beginning later this coming spring, the new signs will replace 34 of the state’s tired welcome signs from the 1980s, which have a blue background with a circle of mountains.)

welcome to montana sign

A mockup of one of Montana’s new welcome signs. From kxlh.

Most of the country’s “Welcome to…” state highway signs are of the traditional variety. Take Alabama’s “Welcome to Alabama the Beautiful”, seen here; this dull “Welcome to Illinois, the Land of Lincoln” sign, seen here, or this slightly more colorful white-black-green-yellow welcome from Iowa, home of “fields of opportunities.” Some feature warnings, such as Arkansas’s sign, which states “Buckle up for safety,” while others, such as Florida’s, which reads “The Sunshine State,” bear the state’s nickname and governor’s name.

But the new Montana signs join the illustrious ranks of some of the nation’s more interesting signs, including:

5. The Most Iconic: Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas

577px-Welcome_to_fabulous_las_vegas_sign

This iconic sign might evoke scenes from “The Hangover,” “Bugsy,” or “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” — depending on your cinematic preferences — or just the sound of rattling slot machines. While not a state-owned sign, the landmark has been welcoming tourists to Sin City for over 50 years at Las Vegas Boulevard South.

4. The Most Useless: Confused in Michigan

This Michigan school zone sign is found on a stretch of road home to three schools. The sign alerts drivers that the speed limit is 25 mph on school days, and during specific times… very specific times: 6:49-7:15, 7:52-8:22, 8:37-9:07, 2:03-2:33, 3:04-3:34, 3:59-4:29.  The sign generated more than a few laughs — it also led to outcries against the local government in 2012 when a local newspaper published a story on its, well, uselessness.

3. The Most Stolen: Route 666; Hell, Michigan; Joey Ramone Place; et. al.

NWS_Hell_MI

Souvenir hunters, collectors, and punk rock fans can’t keep their hands off of these signs, according to Blog 11 Points, which names the Route 666 sign, in Utah; Hell, Michigan’s sign; and the Joey Ramone Place street sign in New York City among the country’s most-grabbed signs.

2. The Creepiest: Skeleton Speed Warnings

skeleton sign

From the NYCDOT, via the New York Times.

New York City’s Department of Transportation campaign, “That’s Why It’s 30,” was designed to inform New Yorkers of the dangers of driving over 30mph and features custom speed boards — used to alert drivers of their speed — that include one of two images. For drivers going the appropriate speed, a silhouette of a pedestrian and the words “Speed Limit 30,” appears; for speeding drivers, a skeleton image and the words “SLOW DOWN” are illuminated. Creepy, but effective.

 

1. The Most Confusing: Squiggles, Lines, and Arrows

Question mark sign

From Thox.

Signs are meant to be simple. It’s a wonder that signs like this one, spotted in San Francisco, or this one, spotted in DeKalb, Illinois, don’t cause more accidents and traffic incidents than they prevent. (Click through to see!)

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Category: Automotive, Infrastructure, Resources

About the Author ()

Katy is a writer, reporter and editor who, in addition to writing for RoadTrafficSigns, has worked with the United Nations Development Programme, Hamptons magazine, Hearst Corporation, The Daily Mail, People Magazine, and a variety of other publications and nonprofits. After graduating with honors from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism in 2011, and distinctions on her thesis and in the consumer journalism seminar, she moved to Milan, Italy. In Italy, she worked as a writer and consultant for an international magazine, editing and translating text and reporting on such events as the Salone Internazionale del Mobile, the annual design fair. A born and raised New Yorker, she has lived in three of five boroughs, relying quite a bit on public transport until getting her driver's license at the admittedly belated age of 21.

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