How Colorado is saving lives, one joke at a time

Meet the guy who helps keep Colorado drivers’ heads out of their apps, Sam Cole.

Those funny road signs that remind Coloradans to buckle up, keep their eyes on the road and stay off their phone are in part crafted by Cole, a Traffic Safety Communications Manager at the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT). Colorado is one of many states that deploy humor on the front lines of road safety in hopes of getting people talking and thinking about safe driving.

After a sharp spike in road fatalities in 2015, CDOT got to work getting the road safety message out there.

“We at CDOT knew we needed to do something different to capture the public’s attention” Cole said about the start of the project.


Colorado is not alone in taking the funny road sign approach. States like Massachusetts and Iowa have been power houses of roadway puns since the trend started, said Amy Ford, CDOT’s communications director. States across the country have set up a one-liner consortium of sorts to share their handy work.

Arizona crowd sources their wit in a yearly contest of dad-jokes turned into safety messages.


“Hello from the other side, buckle up and stay alive,” read one Adele-themed Arizona sign. Adele’s full-throated HEEEELLLLOOOOOOOOOOOO would have taken up too many precious character spaces on the sign.

Some of Cole’s favorite messages that have been displayed around Colorado have had Star Wars, Pokemon and Ghostbusters themes.

“The force is strong, don’t text and drive,” read one.

“Beware the Pokemon, put down the phone,” read another.

Cole’s personal favorite: “Who you gonna call? No one, you’re driving.”


Life-saving jokes have been translated abroad to countries like India. With over a billion people and more cars hitting the already traffic-clogged roads each year, a chuckle helps break through the road rage.

“Speed is a knife that cuts life,” read one sign along the winding roads in the high-mountain regions of India.

“Road is hilly, don’t be silly,” read another.

“Mind your breaks, or break you mind,” grimly warned another.


CDOT wants to be “provocative” and “edgy” without offending people, said Cole. The switch from serious to lighthearted keeps things fresh without making fun of a deadly issue, he said.

Previously, CDOT made a large grenade sculpture to symbolize the dangers of not wearing a seat belt. Painted in large, yellow letters was “an unbuckled passenger can be just as deadly.”