OPINION | MIKE MASTERSON: What’s so funny?

I'm more convinced than ever there must be a God of Safe Transit since U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg apparently decided to rid our nation's highways of those creative and witty signs designed to promote safe driving.

I've spent sleepless nights, worrying that nothing would be done by our elected government to eradicate these humorous scourges.

Why, there's no telling how many fatalities have been the fault of dangerously imaginative road signs such as "Use Yah Blinkah" in Massachusetts; "Visiting in-laws? Slow down, get there late" in Ohio; or "Hocus pocus, drive with focus" in New Jersey. Thousands upon thousands must have have flipped their vehicles or rear-ended others because them.

And I can't overlook Arizona's perilous contribution, "Hands on the wheel, not on your meal."

"Arizona has more than 300 electronic signs above its highways," The Associated Press reported the other day. "For the last seven years, the Arizona Department of Transportation has held a contest to find the funniest and most creative messages."

While it's not an outright ban on the signs, the new Federal Highway Administration manual strongly recommends against using messages that may distract drivers.

Frankly, I'm stunned to see the pre-election polls of voters not reflecting funny highway signs as their leading concern right alongside the government leaving our borders open to drugs, criminals and wholesale invasion, crippling inflation, and widespread crime in major cities.

The danger was obviously worse than I'd even feared. All I can say is thank goodness we have such protective D.C. caregivers in finely tailored suits who clearly enjoy gathering in walnut-paneled rooms over Colombian coffees, fine teas and elegant pastries to wring every possible drop of fun and humor that serves to break up the mindlessness on longer drives.

I imagine the D.C. bureaucrats' conversations on such weighty matters must go something like this:

"So anyone have anything new to propose to make it appear we are saving the masses from themselves today?"

"Yes, sir. I noticed a rather unamusing attempt at humor on an overpass highway sign about safe driving the other day and found it personally offensive."

"Offensive! We know our policy about any longer having anyone in this nation ever offended again! Let's get the sign removed! And while we're at it, we need to immediately scour every state and remove all the witty safe-driving signs as possibly offensive hazards to safe driving!

"Brilliant as always, sir. But can we actually do that to every state?"

"Are you kidding? Of course we can. We are in control! We can do anything we want. If they don't like it, so what? Let them eat Cheetos and Honey Buns! They always come back seeking more of our mandates at the next election!

"Oh, and have our PR spokesman draw up a press release for the millions of hinterland deplorables saying we deem these signs as offensive and dangerous distractions and are acting yet again to save everyone by removing them!"

"Brilliant, sir, and heroic as always! More coffee, gourmet muffin, perhaps?"

"Oh my, no. Three is plenty. Next on the agenda are our well-deserved biannual pay raises."

I sometimes wonder how I possibly survived driving with these flagrant hazards lurking for so long in plain sight.

I might sit right down and write Democrat Mayor Pete a thank you letter for finally protecting me and the motoring masses by recognizing what only he and this administration perceive as Americans' inability to judge the difference between highway safety and danger.

But what about the endless miles of roadside billboards, directional and speed signs that always catch my attention at highway speeds? Of course, none of those are clever or fun, which must mean the split-second of my attention they require must not matter.

OK, valued readers, I'm finally all done now.

Townful arrested

Talk about a community-busting drug bust! How about enough people jailed in only eight hours to all but fill the southwest Arkansas town of Delight?

The criminal and misdemeanor arrests of 245 suspects, all in Crittenden County, happened earlier this month when 55 law enforcement officers from the Arkansas State Police, the 2nd Judicial District Drug Task Force and the cities of Marion and West Memphis.

A total of 449 officer violation contacts reportedly were made in this crackdown, along with 75 criminal and 13 DWI arrests. Part of those included the seizure of eight firearms and various illegal narcotics ranging from crack cocaine to marijuana.

The news release from the state Department of Public Safety quoted ASP Col. Mike Hagar saying ASP won't hesitate to support partner law enforcement agencies. "Operations like these make Arkansas a safer place for us all," he said. And he's right.

Mike Masterson is a longtime Arkansas journalist, was editor of three Arkansas dailies and headed the master's journalism program at Ohio State University. Email him at [email protected].

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