‘Dont Mess with Texas’ campaign gets familial update

A sign with the "Don't Mess with Texas" slogan is shown along Interstate 35 near Gainesville, Texas, Friday, June 4, 2004. In the last year, the Department of Transportation has sent out 23 cease-and-desist letters for unauthorized marketing of the federally registered slogan. (AP Photo/Donna McWilliam)

AUSTIN (NEXSTAR) — It’s been 30 years since the Texas Department of Transportation kicked off its “Don’t mess with Texas” campaign.

The statewide litter prevention effort has garnered a lot of support over the years from the music industry. But this year they’ve decided to change things up a bit, hoping to keep Texas beautiful.

In 1986, trash on Texas highways was piling up faster than the state could clean it up. So the department launched the campaign, hoping to reduce the litter problem. And there was one man, a familiar face that could get the job done.

Willie Nelson, a longtime Texan, sang his way into people’s homes — and it worked.

According to TxDOT, 98 percent of Texans said they knew the slogan, recognized the problem, and the litter rate dropped roughly 72 percent.

Now 30 years later, the state says trash is still a big problem. Each year, an estimated 500 million pieces of litter pile up along state highways.

In 2015, the state spent roughly $32 million on cleanup. So with a new set of problems, TxDOT says its time to pass the torch to a new generation.

This year TxDOT re-launched it’s campaign: same place, same song, just a slightly younger face.

“I’m sure dad got a kick out of it back in the day and I get a kick out of it now,” Lukas Nelson said.

Willie Nelson’s son Lukas has taken his father’s reins to continue spreading the same message — to keep Texas beautiful. “Treat Texas like someone you love.”

TxDOT says violators can face fines for littering starting at $500. You can report a vehicle online at DontMessWithTexas.org. 

Just click the “report a litterer” tab on the homepage.