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Have a Message for Your Fellow Austin Drivers? You Can Help Program These Signs

Photo Illustration by Andrew Weber, Gabriel Cristóver Pérez

Austin’s got a checkered past when it comes to digital road signs. The blinking roadway signs have been hacked a few times in the past to warn of zombies, to taunt the OU Sooners and to even pay tribute to the meme-launching death of Harambe. But the City of Austin Transportation Department has decided to harness that creative energy for good, by allowing anyone to submit safe-for-work language for road signs starting today.

Contestants can submit to the contest, which runs until Feb. 10, by tweeting at @austinmobility and tagging tweets #ontheroadATX or by emailing the department at

Winners will have their congestion-related quips displayed on signs along Cesar Chavez Street, Guadalupe Street, South First Street, Riverside Drive and Lamar Boulevard, among other Austin thoroughfares, according a department release. Runners up will get their submissions tweeted out by the department’s account, but their messages won’t make it on to road signs.

The submissions have a max of 14 characters per line (42 characters over three lines, per panel). Contestants can submit a total of two panels, the department says, that both highlight and address traffic-related campaigns and incorporate an Austin-centric flair. Here’s more from the department:

Winning submissions will refer to a local, statewide, or national mobility or safety initiative; traffic law; or common road condition that drivers should know about, such as road work ahead. You may use commonly understood abbreviations and shorthand (R U 4 real?), but no profanity or inappropriate material. You’ll get bonus points for local cultural references – think live music, cult films, barbecue, breakfast tacos, bats, artists and hometown heroes. Austin has plenty to choose from.

The department also attached some examples of dad-worthy jokes to accelerate the creative process.  

MAMMAS DON’T LET UR BABIES TEXT & DRIVE (Willie Nelson, anybody?) ON THE ROAD AGAIN, BUCKLE YOUR BELT (More Willie and a little Texas cowboy in there, too!) LANE CLOSURE AHEAD, ALL RIGHT ALL RIGHT ALL RIGHT ( MatthewMcConaughey in the house!) DON’T BE A SLACKER. BUCKLE UP! (Slacker - It’s a weird film about a weird place.) SEE MUSIC LIVE, BUT DON’T DRINK AND DRIVE (Do we need to explain this one?)

So far, there haven't been any submissions via Twitter, but we'll update the post as they come online. 

Andrew Weber is a general assignment reporter for KUT, focusing on criminal justice, policing, courts and homelessness in Austin and Travis County. Got a tip? You can email him at Follow him on Twitter @England_Weber.
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