Meet the mind behind your favorite highway signs

“That’s the temperature not the speed limit” and “Hocus Pocus drive with focus” are some of his works
Published: Sep. 5, 2020 at 5:46 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - It only takes a second to read but can leave a lasting impression.

The mind behind the punchy signs on state and interstate highway is Jon Riemann, a communication manager with the Wisconsin Department of Transportation.

“It’s the most fun part of my job, but it’s also the smallest part of my job, so that’s a little unfortunate,” he said, with a laugh.

His work ranges from “Hocus Pocus drive with focus” to “That’s the temperature not the speed limit.”

With interests in “wordplay and wordsmithing,” Riemann said he considers himself a creative person. But he also gets help from a committee, which he often calls the “Creative Traffic Safety Message Committee, depending on how creative [they] get.” Members plan a month or two of content, as ideas can come from anyone, anywhere.

“What’s great about it is it brings people together,” he said. “It gets people to talk about safety. It’s great when we’d hear people say, ‘I’d talk about it with my friends.’”

Riemann explained the key to writing an impactful message: “We have very little time to get people. They’re driving at 60, 70 miles an hour-- we’re hoping no faster than that. They need to be able to see what’s up there, comprehend it and understand what’s going on.”

The driving force behind each message is always the same-- to eliminate accidents. He says there is a traffic death nearly every day in the state.

“It’s not an accident,” he said. “It was a negligent act by somebody that caused that situation. Therefore, it was a crash. It totally could have been prevented.”

Riemann is doing his part, but he is also counting on drivers to save lives.

“Baby Yoda always rides in a car seat. Be safe he will,” Riemann said, giving us a preview of what’s to come. He added, “I will not attempt to do a Yoda [impression].”

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