Puzzling sign in workers' paradise

One of the strangest things about Ann Arbor is the presence of ubiquitous signs like this one:


They're right in my neighborhood, but the reason I didn't have a photograph of my confused self standing in front of one with Coco is that I don't have an available photographer right now. But trust me. They are there, and they don't make sense.

They've been the subject of a number of articles -- some noting that the signs are only likely to increase accidents and deaths.

Amy Alkon has also noted the signs, and while she came to no definitive legal conclusions, she seems to think intent to injure or kill is required.

Do you really need to know that bad things will happen if you injure or kill a construction worker? Like, "Aw, shit, I was going to pick off the foreman until I learned about the $7500 fee."
I was trained as a lawyer, and from a legal perspective, these signs make no sense at all, so I don't think I can come to any definitive conclusions. Apparently, Michigan has a law giving special protection to workers. I haven't been able to find the exact law yet so I can read the text, but a workers bureaucratic group claims the signs are "misleading." (Perhaps they are, but that hasn't caused them to be taken down.)

At least one online analyst says that intent does not matter:

The "kill a worker" law has no provisions for intent or no intent. In other words, it doesn't matter if the SUV driver intended to kill or not - he still killed her and could still be charged with the "kill a woker" felony in addition to vehicular manslaughter charges.
Damn. If that's true, I think it's harsh, and probably unconstitutional. What if the driver who hits the worker was hit from behind? What if his brakes or steering suddenly failed through no fault of his own?

And what if the "worker" is at fault? Sheriffs' departments routinely make juvenile delinquents put on orange vests and pick up trash along roadways, and I assume that they are workers. What if two of them get into a scuffle, and one pushes the other out into traffic and he gets hit? Is it fair to punish the driver?

Should "workers" be entitled to special protection not afforded ordinary citizens? Why should a city worker repairing a sidewalk crack in front of my house receive special protection I don't get if I'm repairing the same crack?

Perhaps this will lead to new identity politics victims rights initiatives. Many bankers work in buildings located on busy streets, and bankers are under a lot of pressure these days. Plus they're hated even more than street workers, and I see no reason why they shouldn't be entitled to the same degree of legal protection.

What about smokers? Under many city ordinances now, workers who smoke are forced to go outside onto dangerous public streets and sidewalks. And like street repair people and bankers, many people hate smokers. Why no sign for them?

Hell, we even warn motorists not to hit deer! And we close roads to protect newts, don't we?

Anyway, this is getting complicated, and I don't know which sucks more; the law or the sign.

But the "worker" business (especially the socialistic implications) bothered me so much that I wanted to alter the sign and put the word "BANKER" in its place. But alas! There's no "B" ready to copy and paste and I'm at least as busy with other things as I am lazy with my fingers.

So this will have to do:


I know it's one letter off, but come on!

At least it gives a general idea.

(If I really had time, I'd have changed it to "BUREAUCRAT," because I think they're the ones who deserve the credit for this nonsense.)

posted by Eric on 08.23.08 at 10:22 AM


How much to injure/kill a lollygagger?

tim maguire   ·  August 23, 2008 1:59 PM

It's always puzzled me why federal employees are given more protection than other folks. If someone kills his postman, he may be charged with the capital crime of "killing a federal worker who was engaged in performance of his job." But if he kills his FedEx or UPS guy in a non-death penalty state, normally the most he could get would be life.

See this case for example:


Sure, for some jobs like federal judges, FBI agents, etc. this might make sense. But every federal employee?

SteveBroolineMA   ·  August 23, 2008 4:14 PM

It might mean they pay you for everyone you kill.

dr kill   ·  August 23, 2008 4:21 PM

Open season on the unemployed is it?

nichevo   ·  August 23, 2008 6:14 PM

When I retired to Arizona I was surprised to see how many road signs were almost threats from the police.

It is a matter of interpretation; one man's threat is another man's useful information.

At a stop light you typically see signs such as: "Speeders go to jail. You won't like it there." Or "Left your license at home? That may cost you plenty."

And there are public service announcements on TV. One that comes to mind shows two fierce looking policemen informing you about how serious reckless boating is. They seem quite eager to literally beat it into your skull.

I guess it is needed. For sixty years I had a great daily struggle to remember that breaking laws leads to difficulties.

K   ·  August 23, 2008 6:38 PM

I LOVED that WANKER sign, eric! In fact, if you don't mind so much, I will pass that around to some friends who wank?

Anyway, on a more serious note, I drove down a side street today and FINALLY saw the deaf kid in the neighborhood I was asked to drive slower for all these years. Poor kid didn't have an MP3.

Penny   ·  August 24, 2008 3:17 AM

You guys already hit on the answer.

It's a bounty.

And, like all good state-run payouts, you get it spread over a number of years.

(But I hear you get double if you knock 'em off in a construction zone.)

bobby b   ·  August 24, 2008 8:50 PM

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