A bored hacker accessed a road precaution sign in Maine this morning and tampered with the message. For a few hours instead of reading: “Night work 8 pm-6 am. Expect delays” the sign stated “Warning: Zombies Ahead.”

This might not seem like such a big deal. It is likely at least a few morning drivers got a chuckle out of the message (at least those who understood it was a joke and not a real warning) but the fact is those precaution signs are meant to help drivers understand what might be going on ahead of them. Altering that message in any way diverts driver attention away from what might really be happening and could easily cause a collision.

Not only is altering the sign dangerous it is also illegal. In fact, under Maine state law, tampering with any ‘safety device’ (which is what that sign is) is a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine.

Defensive drivers understand the importance of being aware of their environment and paying close attention to road signs, potential hazards and warning alerts. Of course if the warning alerts have been altered it is impossible for them to know what, if anything, they should be aware of.

It might seem funny to alter road signs and cause a moment of confusion for drivers, but as any traffic safety expert, police officer or safe driver will tell you, it only takes a moment for an accident to happen; every moment counts.