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Salt Lake City councilman combats speeding with humorous yard signs

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

There were several issues Alejandro Puy wanted to tackle when he joined the Salt Lake City Council in January representing a West Side district - frequent long trains that stop traffic at times, crime, and...

(SOUNDBITE OF ENGINE REVVING)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Let's race.

SIMON: ...Speeding.

ALEJANDRO PUY: We have issues with informal and illegal street racing like a "Fast And Furious" movie...

(SOUNDBITE OF CARS RACING)

PUY: ...Where they - you know, a couple hundred cars will get together and race. And sometimes, they have raced through neighborhoods. But then, you - sometimes, you have your neighbor that, you know, thinks that going 20 miles over the speed limit to save 30 seconds on their commute will make a difference.

SIMON: Councilman Puy says speeding has caused problems for his constituents - accidents, near-misses and deaths of pedestrians. First, he voted with other members of the council to lower the speed limit in neighborhoods from 25 to 20 miles per hour.

PUY: The push to slow down our neighborhood streets from 25 to 20 is well-researched. You know, the difference between getting hit at 25 miles an hour most likely means death. The chances of getting hit and dying at 20 are not that high. So those five miles an hours (ph) make a difference.

SIMON: But lowering the speed limit works only for people who pay attention to signs, doesn't it? Councilman Puy wanted to get the attention of drivers to spark them into driving more responsibly, so he began to customize some black-and-yellow yard signs with a dash of humor.

PUY: Grandmas at play was a good one.

SIMON: Slow down, then two silhouettes of people with walkers facing each other. Also...

PUY: Drive like your grandpa - some people started liking that one lately. And I thought no one was going to get it. But then, all of a sudden, all the grandpas, apparently - or maybe the grandmas are asking about the grandpas.

SIMON: Effective unless your grandfather wants to drive like Lewis Hamilton or Danica Patrick. There's also a sign with the admonition, slow down, traffic school is boring. These signs have proven so popular a second batch is in the works including one that says wild turkey crossing.

PUY: It's more of an inside joke on the West Side. You know, it's - you know, everybody knows about the wild turkeys in the neighborhood.

SIMON: And a companion sign.

PUY: Slow down, wild children. And you know, I'm not sure how that one is going to go, but I'm going to give that neighbor, you know, the sign that she wanted.

SIMON: Maybe she'll put it in her house, not just on the lawn. Councilman Puy says some of the new signs will be in Spanish including one that nods to a hot hit of summer's passage.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "DESPACITO")

LUIS FONIS AND DADDY YANKEE: (Singing) Despacito.

PUY: (Speaking in Spanish). You know, drive slowly, and slowly - (speaking Spanish) despacito - like Fonsi sings.

SIMON: The councilman has paid for these signs himself, so far $400, more than that for the next round, that this gets people to stop speeding through his Salt Lake City district. He believes it's money well-spent. How about a sign that says BJ Leiderman writes the WEEKEND EDITION theme music?

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "DESPACITO")

LUIS FONSI: (Singing) Despacito. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Scott Simon is one of America's most admired writers and broadcasters. He is the host of Weekend Edition Saturday and is one of the hosts of NPR's morning news podcast Up First. He has reported from all fifty states, five continents, and ten wars, from El Salvador to Sarajevo to Afghanistan and Iraq. His books have chronicled character and characters, in war and peace, sports and art, tragedy and comedy.