The traffic safety poster contest was a contest at Calvin's School that Calvin entered to win $5. Calvin entered the slogan "Be careful or be roadkill". Hobbes suggested the slogan "Don't Look into Car Headlights and Freeze, because you will get Run Over or Shot", which was rejected by Calvin. His parents suggested the slogans "Before you cross, look each way and you'll get home safe each day" (suggestion by Calvin's mom) and "Cyclists have a right to the road too you noise-polluting inconsiderate maniacs! I hope gas goes up to eight bucks a gallon!" (suggestion by Calvin's dad). Hobbes did the artwork (featuring a gruesome road accident) for $2.50 of the prize money. Calvin put chunky spaghetti sauce on the poster to create the illusion of gore. Calvin fantasized about becoming famous for winning the contest, but it was Susie Derkins' submission that won. This didn't impress Calvin, as he believed that the contest was rigged. Hobbes stated that trying the best was the important thing, but Calvin insisted the important thing is that they lost, assuming that there's point in trying if you can't be a winner. Calvin tried to get his father to call the school board to have Susie disqualified, but (foreseeably) to no avail, instead his father giving him a lecture that being a good loser is just as important as winning. Susie's submission was never seen.
Behind the Scenes
Bill Watterson said this arc was inspired by a contest he entered when he went to elementary school. He worked hard on a careful drawing of Snoopy, which got him disqualified. He said he was crushed, but learned a valuable lesson about originality. "Calvin, of course, has the opposite problem".