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The Texas Department of Transportation, or TxDOT, oversees Texas transportation and is headquartered in Austin. The Texas Legislature created the organization in 1917, although the agency has had several names throughout the past century.TxDOT is run by a five-member commission and an executive director selected by the commission. Commission members are appointed by the governor, with the advice of the Texas Senate, and serve overlapping six-year terms.The department is divided into 25 districts, each of which oversees construction and maintenance of state highways. Austin’s district includes Bastrop, Blanco, Burnet, Caldwell, Gillespie, Hays, Lee, Llano, Mason, Travis and Williamson counties.In Austin, the organization encompasses entities including Capital Metro; the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization, known as CAMPO; the city’s transportation department; and the chamber of commerce. TxDOT organized the “Don’t Mess with Texas” anti-litter campaign, which began in 1986. Also, it runs the TxTag program, which bills drivers for highway tolls by scanning a sticker on the driver’s windshield at toll stations.

TxDOT Targets Drunk Driving Hispanics With Telenovela Ads

screen capture from TxDOT telenovela ad
Screen capture from TxDOT anti-DUI ad.
TxDOT is using the popular telenovela format to sell its anti-DUI message to Texas' Spanish-speaking population.

The Texas Department of Transportation announced today that it has been airing these two-minute 'mini' telenovelas on the Spanish-language TV networks Univision, Estrella, and Telefutura. TxDOT says it is one of the first US state agencies to create anti-DUI ads using the telenovela form, "which is very popular in the Spanish-speaking community."

Check out the videos for yourself.

It doesn't appear as if Hispanics are any worse DUI offenders than the population at large. TxDOT says 36 percent of DUI fatalities in Texas occurred in crashes where a Hispanic driver was under the influence of alcohol. Hispanics make up about 37 percent of the Texas population.

The League of United Latin American Citizens likes the message of the TV commercials, but suggests the low budget production makes them less convincing. 

"Overall it is a good strategy. It's something that's not widely discussed in Hispanic culture," LULAC national spokesperson Lizette Jenness Olmos told KUT News. "So maybe the fact they're airing it around the evening news, it might be a way of getting a discussion going within the family about this issue."

"They could do a better job in terms of the production where it could be more convincing as a novela than the production that they put behind the ones they're presenting," she said.

Of course, TxDOT is trying to make the most of its public money, just like every other state agency, and its unlikely that its marketing department has the same production budget as a Rebelde or a Fuego en la sangre.

Nathan Bernier is the transportation reporter at KUT. Got a tip? Email him at Follow him on Twitter @KUTnathan.