It’s not every day a traffic sign makes you smile, or even chuckle. “Merge Left,” “Speed Limit 45” and “Road Closed” are informative, but they’re not exactly knee-slappers and most drivers don’t pay attention for more than a second.
Traveling on East Independence Boulevard, it’s hard not to notice the cheeky sign under the Matthews Township Parkway bridge, especially when it flashes “Hey You, Ya You, Don’t Be a Statistic, Please Slow Down.”
The message is one of dozens used by the Matthews Police Department as part of an awareness campaign to keep drivers safe.
“We have been highly focused the last couple of years on traffic safety in our area, especially on East Independence Boulevard, due to the traffic crash numbers that had been on the rise until last year,” Officer Tim Aycock said. “We hope to continue to keep getting those numbers down through initiatives like this that seem to catch people’s attention a little better than the same old safety-type messages.”
Aycock said the traffic unit oversees the sign and has been coming up with the sayings since early this year. Some of the more witty messages include “Boooo It & Lose it, Don’t Drink and Drive” (used during Halloween); “Speeding Naughty, 45 MPH Nice”; “Traffic Enforced, Radar In Use, #Plz-Slow-Dwn” and “Please Raise your Right Foot…If You’re Speeding.”
“It’s making people laugh and when police do anything to make people laugh it’s – I don’t want to say odd – but it kind of humanizes us a little,” Aycock said.
The sign is one component of the department’s 3-E approach on traffic safety, which consists of education, engineering and enforcement. Aycock said most of the crashes on Independence Boulevard are caused by speed and distracted driving.
“Reading emails and texts, that stuff can wait,” Aycock said. “It’s not life or death, but it could be life or death if you’re checking your phone.”
Matthews Police is responsible for enforcement in that area of Independence Boulevard, but Aycock said it’s difficult to patrol due to limited space to pull over, high speeds and sheer volume of cars.
Instead, he said the department would rather educate drivers so they develop safe driving habits and as a result, officers write less tickets.
“It’s tough to give somebody a ticket because they’ll have to pay it, especially now since we don’t know if they’ve lost their job, so we’re just trying to get everybody to do it on their own,” Aycock said.