If you’ve spent any time driving along Route 1, you’ve certainly encountered clever, digital roadside signs displayed with messages — you know the ones like, “buckle up buttercup,” “that seat belt looks good on you,” or a favorite, “come on Eileen, your speed is obscene.” If nothing else, they’ve gotten your attention and elicited a chuckle. Scott Neidert, the manager of the Highway Safety Improvement Program and Traffic Resource Engineer at DelDOT, is the mastermind behind these entertaining and attention-grabbing messages. A transplant from Lancaster, Pa., who moved to Delaware 15 years ago, he admits that the least favorable part of his job as a highway safety engineer is the increasing number of fatalities he sees as a result of distracted driving, speeding and impaired driving — all things that could easily be avoided. But messages like “don’t drive drunk” or “slow down” tend to blend into the background. So when he was tasked with coming up with creative ways to keep people safe on Delaware roadways, Neidert and his cohort, Kari Thompson, a statistical information supervisor who spends the lion’s share of her day analyzing crash data, put their heads together. The result is the pun-filled, pop-culture referencing, stop-in-your-tracks safety messages we have all grown to love. And that’s saying a lot.
Where do the ideas come from and how is it decided what will display?
A lot of people think that we just sit here and brainstorm for hours. The truth is, there is no formal process to come up with these. Kari and I exchange messages back and forth at all hours. We see a movie or watch a show, anything that inspires an idea, and we add it to a list. Once we get a bunch of potential ideas, we literally add them to an Excel spreadsheet and send them off to our secretary and deputy secretary for approval.
Have there been any messages that got nixed that you wish hadn’t?
Oh yeah. I’m a Washington sport team fan, despite where I’m from. I’m not sure how that would be received here, but I imagine there may be some angry people with those specific messages. But messages from popular culture seem to resonate with everyone.
Have you received a lot of feedback from the public about them?
Absolutely. I have a folder of emails. Our community relations department will forward all the messages we get, positive or negative. But we have people reading these messages and talking about them and that was really the goal. We wanted a creative way to get the word out about highway safety, and as far as I’m concerned, I think we’ve done that.
What are some of your favorites?
I am a big Seinfeld fan. So, some of my favorites are references to the show. We had one that was, “Texting and driving, no soup for you!” I really liked, “Route 1 is not the autobahn, slow down, Danke,” “Camp in the State Park, not the left lane”, was another favorite. We have over 250 messages so it’s hard to pick just one. There are so many good ones that we are really proud of.
SCOTT’S LOCAL FAVS
- Beach Dewey Beach
- Restaurant The Starboard, Woody’s
- Sunset spot Indian River Inlet bridge
- Ice cream spot Vanderwende’s
- Live music Freeman Arts Pavilion