New “watch for animals” signs protect motorists and wildlife

New “watch for animals” signs protect motorists and wildlife


New “watch for animals” signs protect motorists and wildlife

New “watch for animals” signs protect motorists and wildlife

By Lori Baker / ADOT Communications
October 26, 2021

While traveling in Arizona’s high country, it’s important to look out for elk, deer and other wildlife which could suddenly bolt in front of your vehicle. There were more than 1,400 crashes with animals in 2020, including two fatalities, 179 people injured and damage to 1,272 vehicles, according to ADOT’s 2020 Crash Facts.

To catch motorists’ attention better, ADOT’s Northern Regional Traffic and Sign Shop crews created new yellow “Watch for Animals” supplemental placards that were placed under existing animal symbol signs. They were posted on State Route 87 south of Payson in both directions as a pilot project.

“We needed to come up with a new sign design that would display the wording, ‘Watch for Animals’ as well as the animal symbol to let all drivers be aware of the potential hazards,” Prescott Valley Transportation Engineering Specialist Josh Hale said. “Some drivers react to visual symbols and some respond to wording better. The new signs give the driver a better visual picture, with the symbol and the wording all in one sign.”

The new signs, were designed after much research in the area, and reviewing wildlife maps and crossings as well as crash data maps. “The placement of our new signs was crucial in our decision-making. We need an area where they would be seen and get the most attention from the public,” said Hale. 

From the Archive: The ultimate vandal

From the Archive: The ultimate vandal


From the Archive: The ultimate vandal

From the Archive: The ultimate vandal

By David Rookhuyzen / ADOT Communications
June 4, 2021

It's safe to say that ADOT's stance against vandalism is well known.

We have a plan in place to clean up graffiti wherever it's found, and have even gotten inventive to keep our highway signs looking spick and span. 

But that's for ordinary kinds of vandalism. What happens when it's a little more extraordinary?

We found the answer to that in the July 1970 issue of Hiway Drumbeats, the old employee newsletter for the Arizona Highway Department, ADOT's predecessor.

Apparently they were having trouble with a particular type of sign damage (as you can see to your right) caused by ... well, why don't we just quote the article in full for you?

When it comes to vandalism and destruction of Highway signs, everybody tries to get into the act, according to Kennth P. Hamblin, Highway Marking Superintendent.

This time it's the lightning bolts of Mother Nature.

"The metallic foil," explained Mr. Hamblin, "which gives the sign its reflectively at night also serves as an attractor to lightning bolts.

"If the steel sign post happens to be driven into a hidden ore deposit, it really becomes an attractor. We have had to relocate some signs which were being hit repeatedly by lightning. After relocating them a half a mile or so, the problem ended."

The annual damage bill was placed at $1,000 by Mr. Hamblin. 

Vandalism by lightning is particularly involved during the summer months when thunder storms arise suddenly both in the high country and the desert.

Apparently when Mother Nature itself is the vandal, the only thing you can do is get out of her way.

Luckily, these sort of incidents are incredibly rare. As we told you about in an earlier blog, highway signs generally have a lifespan of at least a dozen years, but often much more.

But even if our signs are safe, that doesn't mean we don't still have the random shocking run-in with Mother Nature's own brand of vandalism.

It's all in the signs for this ADOT employee

It's all in the signs for this ADOT employee


It's all in the signs for this ADOT employee

It's all in the signs for this ADOT employee

By Laurie Merrill / ADOT Communications
May 27, 2021
For Tom Erickson, it's all in the signs!

Some people like to knit or sew. Others love car racing, going to the theater or solving crossword puzzles. 

Tom Erickson's passion is making signs. And, as an ADOT sign shop employee, he gets to do it every day. 

Erickson's job is his passion. 

"I just enjoy manufacturing signs. They are useful and important," Erickson said. "The signs we build help people every day go about their business."

Erickson is among a handful of ADOT sign shop employees who produce about 400 new signs every month and take care of about 500,000 a year. 

For Erickson, it doesn't matter the size, color or shape of the signs, he just enjoys the process. He is particularly fond of designing new signs. 

But doesn't he have a favorite? 

"I like making the informational signs, the D-series," he said. "They are probably the most entertaining."  

There's a wide range of D-series signs, including those very large green signs we all see on the freeways that list multiple destinations with directional arrows. 

Even on his days off, he enjoys examining signs.

"How did they make that design? Hmmm, there's this, there's that," he said. "I critique signs all over the world." 

Erickson hails from Minnesota and began making signs for a graphics company in the 1980s after he left the U.S. Navy, where he served for eight years. 

He rose through the ranks from shipping and receiving, to installation, to making screens, mixing inks and fabricating interior signs. 

About 20 years ago, he and wife decided to pack up the family and head to sunny Arizona. 

"I'd rather sweat a little than freeze a little," he said. 

He worked for a few private companies in the Phoenix area before getting laid off during the 2009 financial crisis. He applied for so many jobs every week that he forgot he had even applied at ADOT when he got a letter asking him to interview. That was more than 10 years ago.

"All this time, I still haven't lost that desire to get up and make a perfect sign," he said. "I feel that in my bones this is something I am supposed to do."

Distance signs - how accurate are they?

Distance signs - how accurate are they?


Distance signs - how accurate are they?

Distance signs - how accurate are they?

By David Woodfill / ADOT Communications
April 14, 2021

We passed them every day without giving them much consideration.

They're the big, green guide signs on the side of the road telling you the distance between you and your destination, whether it be Tucson, Flagstaff or the tiny census-designated area of Why.

Have you ever wondered how accurate they are?

The answer would be "very."

The measurements are determined by something literally named a Distance Measurement Instrument, or DMI.

"DMIs are more accurate versus an odometer." said John Roberts, ADOT's Systems Technology Manager. "Odometers are considered accurate within 10 percent."

In other words, if you travel 100 miles, your odometer can be off by up to 10 miles.

DMIs, however, are accurate to within one foot, Roberts said.

So, does that mean that every city listed on a guide sign is exactly as far away as the sign says it is - down to within one foot?

Not quite.

If that were the case, there wouldn't be enough room on the signs to accommodate all the decimal spaces that would be required. 

Instead, the distance displayed is rounded to the nearest mile to the city's "center."

How is the "center" of a municipality determined? It's anything determined to be significant near the center of that community.

As we explained in an earlier blog, the center could be the town hall, post office or a railroad crossing.

So, next time your road-tripping down a dusty Arizona highway with some friends or family and you see one of these green signs, take a moment to impress your travel mates with your new knowledge. 

ADOT Kids: We make signs in all shapes, sizes and colors!

ADOT Kids: We make signs in all shapes, sizes and colors!


ADOT Kids: We make signs in all shapes, sizes and colors!

ADOT Kids: We make signs in all shapes, sizes and colors!

By Laurie Merrill / ADOT Communications
January 28, 2021

Hey, kids! Have you ever noticed highway signs while you were going someplace in a car with your mom or dad?  

Of course you have! These signs come in all sizes, shapes and colors, and give your folks and other drivers important information, like what speed they should drive, where they should stop and whether there’s a curve coming up.

Did you know that the Arizona Department of Transportation makes all the highway signs you see? ADOT has its own sign shop, and a small handful of employees makes thousands of different signs.  

Each month, these men and women produce about 400 new signs. They also take care of 500,000 signs a year. That is a lot of signs!

I bet you already know what the red, eight-sided sign is, even without reading it. It means stop! Do you know what the five-sided sign with two children carry books on it means? That’s right, it means a school zone!

There are a whole bunch of signs just for school zones. There are other categories, too, like work zone signs, route marker signs, recreational and cultural signs, guide and information signs, historical markers and much more.

Some signs are very small, such as mile markers, which are only a few inches long. Others can be very big. One guide sign is 23 feet long!  That’s as long as some African elephants.

Did you know you don’t need much lighting to see ADOT signs? That’s because they are made with highly reflective, prismatic sheeting. Some are also protected by graffiti shields. They are made to stand up to wind, rain, snow and the strong draft created by big trucks.

A lot of people get excited about signs. You can read a blog about a little boy, Hunter Vincente of Chino Valley, who is so enthralled with highway signs that he had the tour of his dreams at a sign shop recently. You can also catch our blog when Hunter dressed as a highway sign for Halloween.

Grown men like highways signs too. You can watch a video of ADOT Director John Halikowski try his hand at making all the signs you see along state highways, rest stops and MVD offices.

As long as ADOT has been building roads we’ve been building signs. After all, we would be lost without them!

If you want to learn more about what goes into building and running highways and freeways, check out our ADOT Kids page for fun videos and activites to bring our your inner engineer!

A colorful chapter in state transportation history

A colorful chapter in state transportation history


A colorful chapter in state transportation history

A colorful chapter in state transportation history

By David Rookhuyzen / ADOT Communications
November 3, 2020

When you drive by a highway or interstate marker, there is comforting uniformity to them, no matter if you are driving Interstate 8, Interstate 15, State Route 92, State Route 377, US 60 or US 191. Drivers will recognize the standard red-white-and-blue coloring and shield of an interstate, or the black-and-white coloring of a US highway or a state highway.

The size, shape, color and proportions of those signs are regulated by the Arizona Manual of Approved Signs, which acts in concert with federal guidelines laid out in the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices, or MUTCD.

But decades ago, before all that standardization was put into place, several states decided to experiment with their highway signs by using a dash of color. That's right; instead of the normal black-and-white design, signs could be green, yellow, red, blue, brown or orange, depending on where you were driving. 

The reasoning behind adding these colors was to catch the eye of the driver. In the age before interstates, when a highway would go through a town and might involve several turns, colored signs would help drivers recognize they were still on their preferred route. So in many states, the important highways would each be given their own color, especially if they passed through large cities. 

Arizona was among the states that got into the color game, though it tried something a little different. It picked four colors for its highway signs and assigned them not to specific highways, but to specific directions. As you can see in these images from the guide of a 1961 official state highway map, markers for state and U.S. highways going north would be orange, those going south would be green, those going west would be blue, while those going east would be brown. 

Those colors weren't picked arbitrarily. The Washington Highway Department also went with this directional coloring and, according to a 1954 newsletter article, orange, green, blue and brown were the winners following field tests. It was determined that blue and brown had the best legibility when motorists were driving into a rising or setting sun. After that, orange and green were the only basic colors left in the available light-reflecting sign sheeting materials. 

But the arrival of the interstates upended the whole color experiment. The Federal Highway Administration had adopted colored signs for the interstates, and concerns grew that motorists would confuse the colored interstate sign with a colored state route sign. In the 1961 edition of the MUTCD, the black-and-white shield for U.S. Routes was spelled out. And by the mid-1960s, most states had dropped their various color schemes, including Arizona. 

It was only a brief period in the country's transportation history, but – if you'll pardon the pun – a colorful one.

ADOT Kids: Let's play license plate bingo!

ADOT Kids: Let's play license plate bingo!


ADOT Kids: Let's play license plate bingo!

ADOT Kids: Let's play license plate bingo!

By Mary Currie / ADOT Communications
August 25, 2020

Wondering how to keep your kids entertained on car rides or road trips? ADOT has something fun to bring along.

We've created bingo cards filled with highway signs, traffic signs, specialty license plates and other things that you may spot on an Arizona road trip. Pack these cards on your next car trip for some family fun and we hope it can help keep the kids occupied for a bit!

The cards can be downloaded and printed for up to four players each game. Pennies make good card markers, or print enough for each trip and check off items with a pencil, pen, marker or crayon. If you’re super-crafty, print them on cardstock paper, then laminate and use over and over with a dry-erase marker. 

(Sidenote: If your kiddo is really into roadways, they might be interested in poring through the Arizona Manual of Approved Signs. For those curious about specialty plate offerings, you can view all available plates here.)

Wherever your destination, remember to drive safely, buckle up and download the free ADOT Alerts and AZ511 apps before you head out the door. 

Remember, depending on the season, road trips across Arizona can be extremely hot or bitterly chilly. Always make sure your car has an emergency kit with plenty of extra water, snacks, a fully-charged cell phone, extra clothes for the season, hand sanitizer, wipes and a face covering. You can find information on driving in extreme weather, from snow storms to dust storms, here.

With this much fun and information at your fingertips, you’ll never wonder, “Are we there yet?”

ADOT Kids Activity: Create your own safety message!

ADOT Kids Activity: Create your own safety message!


ADOT Kids Activity: Create your own safety message!

ADOT Kids Activity: Create your own safety message!

April 29, 2020

EDITOR'S NOTE: During this unprecedented time, ADOT is creating transportation activities for kids. Please visit or use the hashtag #ADOTKids on ADOT's Twitter, Facebook and Instagram accounts to see what we have going on.

By Doug Pacey / ADOT Communications


Have you seen the safety messages ADOT puts on digital signs above highways? The messages that sometimes relate to holidays, like Halloween or Thanksgiving, or popular movies, like "Lion King" or "Star Wars?"

We like to have fun with these, and we know that people enjoy seeing funny and creative messages. But we have a serious reason for posting safety messages: We want all drivers to make better choices. Even though our messages are sometimes silly, they all relate to traffic safety and safe driving. Our hope is that drivers will see the message and make better driving decisions, like not speeding, not driving distracted and making sure to wear a seat belt, so there are fewer people getting hurt in car crashes.

With nearly 300 of these Dynamic Message Signs above highways all across Arizona, lots of drivers and passengers – even kids! – can see the messages. The slideshow at right has some of our favorites.

Now, there are some federal guidelines ADOT must follow when we post messages. For instance, with few exceptions all messages must involve traffic information or traffic safety. Also, our signs don’t have unlimited space – they can only fit three lines and 18 letters or spaces per line.

But, in the interest of some ADOT Kids fun, let’s break the rules!

MAKE YOUR OWN MESSAGE: Let your imagination and creativity run wild when thinking up your own silly or serious safety messages. We’ve created a coloring sheet for you to create your own messages, but if your message needs more space, that’s OK. You can use your own paper or even create a message digitally.

You can create a message that follows the federal guidelines of using 18 letters and three lines or a message that goes way over the limit. Or maybe even a message that has words and pictures!

If you already know what you want your message to say, that’s great! If you’re not sure yet, here’s an ideas to get you started: Pick a safe-driving topic that matters most to you like speeding, seat belts, distracted driving, dust storms, work zone safety, motorcycles, car seats or something else.

NOTE: A slideshow with contributed safety messages is below, along with a video showcasing your work and answering questions. 

The activity sheet:

Slideshow with messages: 

ADOT Kids: Safety Messages


Throwback Thursday: Sign of the times

Throwback Thursday: Sign of the times


Throwback Thursday: Sign of the times

Throwback Thursday: Sign of the times

By David Rookhuyzen / ADOT Communications
February 6, 2020

In December Governor Doug Ducey unveiled six new "Welcome to Arizona" signs to highlight the state's impressive sights. The brightly colored themed signs made quite a splash and have already gone up across the state.

That's why we thought it was a good time to throwback almost 50 years to see how Arizona greeted travelers back then.

This particular sign once stood on State Route 95 at the edge of Parker, with the photo saying it was taken in 1971. I think we can all agree that the messaging was on point, even if the presentation left something to be desired. If anything it looks like the much larger big brother to the "End construction project" sign just behind it.

We can't give you a good count for how many years this particular model of sign was up. A couple decades later, the state decided to be a bit splashier when welcoming folks. In the 1990s we installed large blue signs with the state flag along the interstate entrances to Arizona. You can read about how massive an undertaking it really was to produce and set up those signs in a blog post from several years ago.

While the newest signs unveiled by Governor Ducey certainly are more visually appealing than this one from Parker nearly five decades ago, you will notice the message on both is still the same: Welcome to Arizona.

For this little boy, a visit to ADOT's sign shop is 'everything'

For this little boy, a visit to ADOT's sign shop is 'everything'


For this little boy, a visit to ADOT's sign shop is 'everything'

For this little boy, a visit to ADOT's sign shop is 'everything'

By Laurie Merrill / ADOT Communications
November 6, 2019

No candy store or Santa’s workshop could have created the delight that glowed from Hunter Vincente during a visit to ADOT’s sign shop. 

For this 7-year-old from Chino Valley, there is nothing better than road signs. They beat out scooters, sweets, digital devices and TV. They beat out Captain Marvel and Legos and Star Wars.

This tour of a little boy's dreams came about because of his great-aunt, Monica Rodarte of Tempe, who hand-stitched Hunter’s highway sign Halloween costume, posted it on ADOT’s Facebook page and asked if there was any way Hunter could see where the signs are made. Tickled, we not only set up a visit this week but featured his costume in a blog post just in time for trick-or-treating.

His mother, Shannel Mae Vincente, said that Hunter’s passion for signs started about a year ago.

“All of a sudden, it was the weirdest thing, he started memorizing signs and drawing them.’’

With his photographic memory, he recalls how the signs look, what they say and where they are.

“We go through paper like it’s nobody’s business,” she said.

If little boys have bucket lists, Hunter can check off his biggest.

As soon as their car stopped at ADOT's sign shop in Phoenix, Hunter sprinted toward two large green and white signs in the parking lot that said, “McDowell Rd and 43rd Ave exit only.”  He was joined by his brother, grandmother, mother and aunt.

Inside the expansive facility, Adam Wilt, who like the other workers present is a sign technician, gave Hunter a VIP tour.

Hunter looked on with rapt attention while sign techs made a “no trucks” sign from start to finish.

Wilt held it up for Hunter’s inspection and said: “And that’s how a sign is born.”

Outside in the yard, Hunter gazed in awe at larger signs, some as big as 16 feet by 16 feet and others 8 feet by 23 feet. He ran for closer scrutiny.

“As a mom, you’re emotional,” Shannel said. “It’s nice to see him see the signs up close and personal and in real life.”

There was nothing in the factory that didn’t fascinate Hunter. It’s a tour he’ll never forget in part because the sign techs presented him some very special mementos, including a chart displaying hundreds of ADOT signs.  

When he received this, Hunter could no longer contain his joy. It spilled out of him in the form of a happy dance.Hunter was fascinated with a chart of ADOT signs

“I hope it was as exciting as it can be,” Wilt said. “I hope it makes his day, his year, his month and his week.”

Sign tech Tom Erickson, who has been making highway signs for more than 30 years, said he feels nearly as thrilled as Hunter.

“This is a passion for me, too,” Erickson said. “People in the sign business, it kind of grows on you.”  

At the end of the tour, the sign techs posed with Hunter, Hunter put on his road sign Halloween costume because its orange reflective vest matched those of his new friends.

Monica, who made the costume, is deeply grateful for the techs’ thoughtfulness.

“There are really no words on what this day meant to my nephew Hunter,” she said. “Thank for what you do for Arizona. You are unsung heroes that keep us safe on our roadways.”