Fred Utter

Davenport Highway Superintendent Fred Utter points to a sign he paid for and installed on Charlotte Creek Road to encourage motorists to slow down.

Motorists driving on a section of a New York highway are being warned to slow down by a pair of signs that mince no words.

Highway Superintendent Fred Utter’s message for drivers on Charlotte Creek Road near the town of Davenport, about 80 miles west of Albany, is: “Hey Stupid Slow Down!”

Utter personally paid for two white signs with that phrase after getting Davenport Town Board approval in August. The signs went up in the eastbound and westbound lanes, along with two standard signs the board agreed to pay for, last week, Utter said. 

He said the signs are in response to a dangerous situation he heard about in August. A motorist was driving east on the road at the time, less than a mile from the intersection with county Route 11. When rounding the curve, she had to slam on the car brakes when she saw a school bus unloading, he said.

Skid marks measuring more than 100 feet in length are still at the site, showing the car had to steer toward a ditch to avoid hitting the bus, Utter said. At the time a preschooler and his mother were walking away from the site.

Utter, who also drives a bus for the Charlotte Valley Central School District and is the town fire chief, heard about the situation from the bus driver involved in the near-accident. Utter decided to personally pay for the white signs, about $40 each, to help get it done.

“If it saves somebody’s life, it’s worth it,” he said. He chose the language to get people’s attention, he said. “I’m just trying to get a point across. Sometimes you need to be blunt.”

The message seems to be getting through to people. Utter said he’s heard only one complaint, while most people congratulate him.

“It’s meant for people who don’t obey signs,” he said.

Davenport Supervisor Dennis Valente said because of the curious additions to the roadway, people are now discussing a serious safety issue. He has gotten a couple of complaints, but most people like the signs, he said.

The board approved Utter’s initiative because it was thought the “shock value” would draw attention to a serious situation, Valente said. However, he added, “they are rude” and he wouldn’t want them to be fixtures in the town. Valente said he will soon be polling the board to see if it wants to make changes. He likes the additional signage and said a solution could involve using something to cover up the offensive language, while leaving the standard messages.

Delaware County Sheriff Thomas Mills said he has heard of the signs and said he is aware of the problems that come from improving town roads. Any means of trying to make people more alert about speeding could be valuable, he said. He will be encouraging his patrols to check the situation and see if more needs to be done to control it.

“Maybe people will wake up to the danger,” he said.

Information for this story was reported by the Oneonta (N.Y.) Daily Star.

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