AUSTIN (KXAN) — The transportation department of Austin, Texas, is reminding residents not to drink or drive distracted this holiday season — but their methods are “a little dark” for some residents.
In a recent public service announcement posted to Twitter, the department tweeted parody lyrics set to the tune of the Christmas classic “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” that aimed to highlight the dangers of drunk and distracted driving:
“I saw mommy killing Santa Claus,
He disappeared under the truck last night,
She didn’t see him cross the street, now his body’s a red streak,
She was reading on her phone the latest Tweet.
“Then I saw EMS putting Santa Claus
Underneath a sheet so snowy white.
Oh what a sad day it has been
With distraction yet again,
And Mommy killing Santa Claus last night.”
Responses to the tweet were mixed. Some defended the tactic, saying there were too many car crashes on roadways and that this was a necessary method. But others disagreed, with one feeling it’s “a little dark after a rough year for street fatalities” and another calling it “embarrassing” and a “PR disaster.”
The tweet also captured the attention of two city council members, Vanessa Fuentes and Mackenzie Kelly.
Fuentes quote-tweeted the post with only one word: “Whoa.” Meanwhile, Kelly wrote, “I’ve heard concerns regarding the messaging from this account and I’ve reached out to the city managers office for further information related to messaging from official city accounts.”
In an email to Nexstar’s KXAN, an ATD spokesperson cited estimates from the National Security Council, which anticipates 346 people could die on U.S. roads this holiday weekend due to impaired driving.
“We hope the social media posts encourage the community to make good choices on the road this holiday season by planning a safe ride home and avoiding distractions,” the spokesperson said.
ATD officials added that the department ran a series of focus groups earlier this year to evaluate effective messaging and determine what might change people’s driving behaviors. The focus groups centered on the department’s target audience of people most impacted by traffic crashes — men ages 18-35.
“In these focus groups we heard repeatedly that messaging that was more graphic and that had a ‘shock’ factor was most likely to influence driving behaviors,” the spokesperson added. “In this series of posts, we are continuing to focus on the prime behaviors that cause severe crashes — speed, distraction, intoxication and failing to yield — and we hope the messaging will raise awareness in the community to travel safely this holiday season.”
The spokesperson added the department had already run two of these PSAs this week, with two more planned for Thursday and Friday.
In an earlier PSA, the department shared lyrics parodying “Frosty the Snowman,” which told the tale of a snowman named “Frothy” who had too many drinks “with all his bros” and ended up swerving off the highway.
“Frothy the snowman
Was as dead as he could be,
And all his bros say they miss him
At the happy hour at three”
In its email, ATD officials added that safety awareness and education resources are some of the focuses of the city’s Vision Zero program, aimed at reducing traffic-related deaths on Austin roadways.
Austin police will also be patrolling for impaired drivers this season through its No Refusal Initiative, effective through Jan. 1.