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An open letter to Tennessee “Governor” Bill Haslam on TDOT messages

TDOTHi, my name is Paul and I am a native of Nashville. I’ve lived here my entire life minus a couple of years spent elsewhere in my 20’s, and I’ve watched as Nashville has been nationally stereotyped, ridiculed, and finally is finally stepping out of this backwater image that the media liked to portray us as for most of my life.

So why are your employees working to make us look like backwoods illiterate hicks?

I’m speaking specifically about the grammatically and logically atrocious TDOT Smartway system signs that seems to be manned by someone who never passed second grade English.

“Governor,” let me tell you what I’m talking about categorically:

The use of quotation marks with no apparent rhyme nor reason. Warnings such as: ‘”Look twice” for motorcycles.’

A quotation mark means that you’re quoting something. In this case if you’re quoting anything it would be “look twice for motorcycles,” followed by the attribution such as “Governor” Bill Haslam.

The other use of quotes in modern days is to imply irony or sarcasm, which is why when you see “Governor,” Bill Haslam it reads like an insult. It’s not as a note, it’s an example. In common speech saying ‘Stacy “really liked that gift”‘ implies Stacy did not in fact, like that gift.

Therefor the ‘”look twice” for motorcycles’ comes across as ironic, and therefore insulting to motorcyclists. Even if you’re using quotes incorrectly for emphasis, emphasizing the statement would read *LOOK TWICE FOR MOTORCYCLES* emphasising the entire statement.

The next thing is this death-obsession they seem to have. There’s been a fatality counter up every other week telling us just how many people have died. I understand somewhat that this is a morbid promotional tool aimed at preventing fatalities, but there are multiple versions of this that logically do not work.

One of these is the statistic that half (or over,) of all fatalities on the road were not wearing seatbelts. That statistic and statement is garbage. Assume that 1000 people die, 90% of the people driving on the roads were not wearing seatbelts and only 10% were. In this case the conclusion is that wearing a seatbelt increases your chances of dying in a crash.

This obviously isn’t the case, but the statement presented is logically garbage.

You place a statistic up: 20% of people don’t wear their seatbelts, 80% do. The same total number die. Not wearing a seatbelt makes you 400% more likely to die in a car crash. That’s a decent statistic. It’s also fewer characters than the badly presented stats.

I’ve mentioned this to TDOT and TN511 a few times and was told my complaints would get forwarded, but basically every week I drive by and there’s more morbid grammatical atrocities and logical failures that look like they were put up there by someone who just doesn’t care.

Taxpayers spent a lot of money for the Smartway system, it’s probably time to emphasise the “Smart” portion of the name.

For reference:

I could “go on,” but that should be enough.

So please tell T.D.O.T. and whoever operates the Smartway system to stop making us look like a bunch of ignorant fools. Maybe they’ll listen to you since they’re your employees, and I’m just someone helping to pay their paycheck.


Paul King

Paul King lives in Nashville Tennessee with his wife, two daughters and cats. He writes for Pocketables, theITBaby, and is an IT consultant along with doing tech support for a film production company.