State tells commuters to ‘use yah blinkah’

The Massachusetts Department of Transportation is poking a bit of fun at the Boston accent while admonishing drivers to observe safety rules of the road.
Michael Dwyer/Associated Press
The Massachusetts Department of Transportation is poking a bit of fun at the Boston accent while admonishing drivers to observe safety rules of the road.

When the Massachusetts Department of Transportation chose to warn drivers about the need to signal before changing lanes, they opted for a familiar patois: the Boston accent.

New messages appeared Friday morning on the state’s electronic highway signs, reading “Changing lanes? Use yah blinkah.”

The electronic message, which will be on display through the weekend, prompted an eruption of reactions, ranging from delight to horror, on social media as motorists spotted the messages during the morning commute.


“An actual sign entering Boston reads: ‘Changing lanes? Use yah blinkah.’ I kid you not,” wrote one Twitter user. “Wicked clevah!” wrote another.

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Some expressed dismay: “I’m saddened that this is real.”

Highway Administrator Frank DePaola said he was pleased with the reactions to the effort to liven up the highway signs by appealing to Bostonians in their native dialect.

“Sometimes it becomes a little bit of white noise because we just repeat [the messages], so we thought we’d change them up a little bit,” DePaola said. “By changing the message and maybe using that creative spelling, we thought we’d get people’s attention and get people talking about it.”

He was a little taken aback by some of those positive expressions appearing with mages on social media.


“We don’t encourage the taking-a-picture part,” he said. “. . . I hope they’re doing all the tweets after they get to their destination, when they’re sitting at their desks.”

There may be more where that came from. DePaola said the success of the “Pahk Yah Cah in Hahvahd Yahd”-esque one-liner leads him to believe more may come in the future.

“I’m thinking maybe we end up soliciting the public, get some suggestions from the public on that . . . to try to come up with some uniquely crafted messages,” DePaola said.

The “Use Yah Blinkah” message was prompted by a complaint submitted to MassDOT’s online contact form by a Massachussets resident who identified himself as James and requested that the transportation agency try to discourage drivers from changing lanes willy nilly.

“Occasionally, can the [Department of] Transportation set up their sign to remind motorists to use their directional signals when changing lanes or moving to an exit ramp?” James wrote. “For safety sake and courtesy, it would be great if people on our streets and highways would use their signals when changing lanes. I’m not sure if it is thoughtlessness or ignorance, or indifference.”


Sara Lavoie, MassDOT spokeswoman, said the agency saw the e-mail suggestion and decided to give it a try and have fun at the same time.

‘Changing lanes? Use yah blinkah.’

So far this year, police departments across the state have given out 1,083 tickets for failure to signal before changing lanes. Last year, police gave out 4,967 tickets for that violation, and 4,359 in 2012.

Martine Powers can be reached at