Don’t Mess with Texas by Littering

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You’re no doubt familiar with the warning “Don’t Mess with Texas,” but do you know the slogan’s roots?

In 1986, late jazz guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughn filmed a “Don’t Mess with Texas” public service announcement for the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT), designed to reduce the ever-increasing costs of litter pickup.

In short order, the slogan made its way into U.S. pop culture, and over the last two decades, 26 celebrities—including Willie Nelson, Lance Armstrong and Matthew McConaughey—have served as spokespeople for TxDOT’s antilittering campaign.

The latest star to issue the “Don’t Mess…” message is country legend George Strait, whose TV commercial began airing statewide in May. (Click here to view it.)

“Ironically, some of the most prideful Texans are also some of the worst litterers, according to new research,” says TxDOT Travel Information Division Director Doris Howdeshell. “If you love Texas so much, why in the world would you throw trash on it?”

Indeed, the latest research shows 24% of Texans are proud of their state and believe roadside litter makes it look bad—but they also readily admit to littering and aren’t concerned when others do so.

Approximately 13% of Texans, who TxDOT classifies as “fun-loving antiestablishment” types, believe having fun is the whole point of life, and they represent the highest percentage (55%) of litterers. They say unintended littering is OK and see no need to teach their children about litter prevention.

Howdeshell hopes the new TV spot will reach both groups.

“When George Strait reminds people, ‘Don’t Mess with Texas means don’t litter,’ we think they’ll listen,” she says. “After all, he epitomizes Texas pride.”

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