QUESTION: Is it legal for residents in the Village of Alamance to put up their own caution signs that warn drivers to “SLOW THE #@%! DOWN”?
ANSWER: The meandering, densely-developed lanes of NC 62 have long been a safety hazard for drivers who hit the accelerator as they pass through the Village of Alamance. But in addition to the potential dangers to life and limb, it seems that some folks have had their feelings bruised by mock road signs that several of the village’s residents have put up to discourage people from driving too fast through their community.
At least a dozen people who own road frontage along this stretch of NC 62 have raised these flashy Day-Glo yellow signs that literally warn drivers to “SLOW THE #@%! DOWN.” While none of the signs employs any actual vulgarity in conveying this message, their allusive use of special characters has apparently revved up the motors of some the village’s more prickly passersby.
In recent weeks, complaints over these signs have even come to attention of the village’s elected leaders. Ben York, the village’s municipal clerk, has told The Alamance News that the village’s board of aldermen has received several objections to “the content” of the unsanctioned warnings.
“The town didn’t put them up,” York stressed in an interview. “But we have heard from residents and people who drive through the community who don’t like the signs.”
The controversy over these signs ultimately came to a head during the latest meeting of the village’s board of aldermen. York said that this meeting featured remarks from both supporters of these suggestive signs as well as others who want them removed with all deliberate speed.
York emphasized that the village can’t prohibit these placards without running afoul of the First Amendment. In fact, similar concerns about the freedom of speech recently prevented officials in Burlington from taking action against a much more provocative campaign yard sign which actually invoked a certain four-letter word that famously can’t be uttered on television.
In the meantime, York acknowledged that the village’s board of aldermen has been exploring some options to address the underlying issue of speeding, which would theoretically eliminate the need for residents to display their own, overly-blunt warnings to drivers.
“We can’t really regulate the speech on the signs,” he conceded. “But we would like to see people drive slowly through there as well.”