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Bovine Rubbernecking

November 11, 1999

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Motorists will slow down for the darndest things.
A hungry cow - and a well-meaning Florida Department of Transportation - recently caused miles-long traffic backups along Interstate 4.
Last Saturday, a cow wandered into a marshy field alongside the interstate near Debary. The knee-deep water didn't seem to bother her, but motorists passing by kept calling the Florida Highway Patrol. Some reported the cow was stuck. Others said it was drowning.
A trooper dispatched to the area determined that the cow was neither stuck nor drowning. But motorists kept slowing down to look, causing traffic backups, and the calls kept coming in.
Who do you call for a case of bovine rubbernecking?
In this case, the troopers put in a call to the state Department of Transportation. The DOT sent out workers to put up one of those flashing lighted signs. They normally say things like, "Road Construction Ahead, 45 mph," or "Lane Closed Ahead, Merge Right."
In this case, however, the sign flashed, "The Cow is OK."
"We're long on humanitarianism and short on creative writing skills," DOT spokesman Steve Homan told the Associated Press.
The sign seemed to solve the problem Saturday, and traffic returned to normal.
Monday morning, however, the sign was still there. The cow wasn't. As commuters drove by during Monday morning rush hour, the sign itself became a problem.
Puzzled drivers slowed down, looking for the cow mentioned on the sign. Traffic backed up for miles.

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