SHAMOKIN DAM -- It rises up from the grass across from Gilbert's Garden Center along Route 15, a bright, yellow-orange call for safer driving.

"Buckle Up Next Million Miles," the road sign states.

Mike Hess, PennDOT safety press officer, said the "... Next Million Miles" campaign has been discontinued, making the sign the equivalent of an endangered species. But this dinosaur has piqued the interest of several bloggers, who have had a field day with its curious message.

"The funniest (sign) I saw said, Buckle Up Next Million Miles.' I love it when state governments can have a sense of humor," blogger Matt Jacobs wrote.

StopandGo.org, a Web site that documents bizarre road signs, quipped: "If I drive more than 1,000,000 miles, do I earn the right to not wear my seat belt or is this just supposed to be understood as humor?"

Actually, unless you're a trucker or traveling sales person, you're not likely to drive more than a million miles in your lifetime. According to Terrapass.com, the average American drives 12,000 miles per year. Assuming you begin driving at 17 and don't give up your license until age 75, you'll have driven only 696,000 miles -- a fairly far cry from a million.

All humor aside, however, PennDOT's "... Next Million Miles" campaign speaks to a larger truth about Valley drivers. More specifically, it speaks to PennDOT's success in getting them to buckle up. In 2002, Montour, Northumberland and Union counties were all below state averages for seat belt use. All three have been higher than the state average every year since, according to Mr. Hess, who credited the "Click-It or Ticket" program along with an increased publicity campaign for the increases.

"Sometimes it takes that second ticket to get people to put on their seat belts," he said.

The "Buckle Up Next Million Miles" initiative began around the same time several Valley counties were struggling with seat belt use, Mr. Hess said.

"It was part of a program to target areas with higher-than-usual unbelted crashes, where people were not buckling up and were injured or killed," he said.

Alison Wenger, a spokeswoman from PennDOT's Harrisburg office, said the "... Next Million Miles" campaign was an "effort to grab motorists' attention and keep the messages fresh."

Ms. Wenger said a part of the team that developed the off-beat road signs has retired.

"I can't speak to exactly what they were thinking," she said.

While more Valley motorists have begun to wear seat belts, the "... Next Million Miles" signs have likely not been the reason, Mr. Hess said.

"We examined the program and basically found it only had a marginal effect," he said. "We're not putting any new ones up at this time."

Ms. Wenger said the brightly colored signs that already stand throughout the Valley will remain, though, until their message becomes illegible or they fall over, heeding drivers to buckle up for the next million miles of yellow lines and asphalt.

For those with a mind for math, that's 36,683 safe trips from Sunbury to Danville and back.

n E-mail comments to dgessel@dailyitem.com.