November 3rd, 2016

Billboards, Regulations and Safety (Do the Bureaucrats Have a Point?)

nys-road-signsWhen the political season rolls around we often hear lots of blabber about “too many regulations.” I call it blabber because rarely do the nay-sayers of “regulations” explore why they were created and what benefit (if any) they may be to society.

So let’s do one, because the news item caught my eye as funny.

It seems that New York has created a whole slew of illegal road signs. From my local paper:

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration dotted New York with 514 highway signs touting its tourism programs despite a federal ruling explicitly prohibiting the state from doing so.

Documents obtained by the USA Today Network’s Albany Bureau show the Federal Highway Administration has repeatedly notified Cuomo’s administration over the past three years that the signs violate federal and state law, which contain strict rules for what can and cannot be displayed on major roadways.

But the state Department of Transportation and Thruway Authority appear to have ignored the warnings, rapidly expanding the signage across the state while federal officials continued to voice concerns.

Oh dear. Illegal road signs? What kind of madness is this? WHO CARES WHAT THE DAMN SIGNS LOOK LIKE!?

Apparently, “Some of the signs have non-conforming symbols, while others violate sign lettering and other standards.” And the feds get to have their say because those roads are federally supported.

“Non-conforming symbols.” Yes, that is what this appears to be about.

And so we cut to the method to the madness:

“Simple signs make for safer journeys. That means using signs that are easy to identify, comprehend and understand in a matter of seconds as you are driving.”

That’s right. It’s really about distracted driving. Anything non-confonforming means extra time the driver is looking at the sign and not the road.

Of course, it doesn’t mean that all officialdom is doing it right, and you shouldn’t take this post to mean that.

For example, in 2007 I drove down this road in talking about road signage, when the Port Authority in its infinite wisdom contemplated allowing Geico to put up signs touting driver safety. In the George Washington Bridge toll plaza. One of the most vehicle-crowded spots in the country. The signs, which would distract drivers from the cars in front of them, would tout driving safely. Really. Some things are so stupid they’re beyond parody.

Think about that the next time you hear someone holler about “unnecessary regulations.” Was someone trying to make a buck off it? Or was it, perhaps,  created by bureaucrats who were not looking to justify their existence, but simply understand the repercussions of their actions?