‘Don’t Let Drunk or High Drive’

On January 23 2022, a California-based journalist tweeted an image of a highway sign with rather odd wording:

Sara Zendehnam (the author of the above tweet) was not the only user to remark upon the signs, but their visibility (primarily from cars on a busy road) likely made capturing images difficult:

Fact Check

Claim: Photographs show California highway signs which read "don’t let drunk or high drive" in late 2021 and early 2022.

Description: Based on photographs and tweets from various users on social media, there were indeed signs spotted in California that said ‘don’t let drunk or high drive’. The bizarrely-phrased signs were part of a road safety campaign.

Rating: True

Rating Explanation: The claim is supported by available evidence, such as images provided by social media users and confirmed in December 2021 press releases from various California agencies.

Typically, tweets about the “Don’t let drunk or high drive” signs in California were text-based. But several people managed to capture images of the signs, pointing to an existing campaign (versus some sort of a weird meme.)

Sign hacking was sometimes the culprit behind weird phrasing on programmable signs. In this instance, a search for “Don’t let drunk or high drive” (in quotes) shed a tiny bit of light on the signage and its purpose.

Twenty-seven results were returned, primarily in the form od coordinated press releases and public service announcements issued by California municipalities, police departments, and a newspaper. The releases were fairly similar, and while the strange syntax appeared in the headline or title, it wasn’t explicitly explained beyond that:

Don’t Let Drunk, or “High,” Drive: Celebrate the Holiday Season Responsibly

National “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” Enforcement Campaign Begins Dec. 15

SANTA ANA, CA. (December 15, 2021): This holiday season, the Orange County Sheriff’s Department reminds the public to celebrate the holiday season responsibly by not driving under the influence.

The Orange County Sheriff’s Department is committed to keeping our community safe and encourages everyone to stay in for the night or use a designated sober driver if you have alcohol, marijuana, prescription, or over-the-counter drugs that may impair …

Images and tweets about “Don’t let drunk or high” road signage in California often (but not always) included unique photographs of the also-unique signs. December 2021 press releases from agencies and press in California affirmed the existence of the bizarrely-phrased signs, but didn’t seem to explain why they were worded that way. The existence of the signs was not in question, but the decision to arrange words in that specific way remains a mystery.