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The Story Behind Those Funny TxDOT Safety Signs

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Photo: Shamir Andres

Electronic billboards in Texas are fairly utilitarian — they’re used to notify drivers of traffic delays, Amber alerts and detours. That all changes when the holidays roll around. Around Thanksgiving, the Lone Star State’s many orange-and-black billboards get into the holiday spirit with fun and quippy messages that promote safe driving. Here’s a look at a few of them:

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  • “Gobble gobble, go easy on the throttle”
  • “Feast your eyes on the road”
  • “Only Rudolph should drive lit”
  • “Drink and drive and Yule be sorry”

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Who comes up with these?

The familiar billboards belong to the Texas Department of Transportation, and the messages are being broadcast from TxDOT headquarters in Austin. According to TxDOT spokesman Ryan LaFontaine, the traffic division teams with the media relations department up to formulate clever new messages. Aside from the messages’ festive theme, there’s one major stipulation: Like other road signs, their messages have to be short and direct.

Although creative, TxDOT primarily wants to encourage safe driving. With so many drivers on the road during Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s, it’s vital to remind people that distracted driving simply isn’t worth the risk. Statistics prove that attentive, safe driving is critical. In 2018, TxDOT data shows that distracted driving was a major factor in 398 road fatalities, while drunk driving caused another 940 deaths.

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Safety matters outside of the holiday season, too. That’s why TxDOT also posts messages for Labor Day, Memorial Day, the Fourth of July, and events like football games and rodeos. Oh, and of course, obligatory Star Wars references.

“It’s important that we’re reaching people to let them know that buckling up can save your life. Driving without distractions can save your life and the lives of people around you,” LaFontaine stated.