Rural Pickup Truck Drivers and Safety Belt Use: Focus Group Report



Technical Report Page

Executive Summary


Defining the Problem


Gender and Other Characteristics

Laws Pertaining to Children and Cargo Areas

Focus Groups: Background

Moderator's Guide and Topics of Discussion

Focus Groups: Findings

Focus Group Participants' Attitudes Toward Safety Measures

Focus Group Participants' Safety Belt Use

Focus Group Participants' Responses to Specific Reasons/Approaches

Focus Group Responses to Existing Campaign Approaches - English-Speaking Group

Focus Group Responses to Existing Campaign Approaches - Hispanic Group

Campaign Component Development - English-Speaking Group

Campaign Component Development - Hispanic Group



List of Tables

List of Figures





Focus Group Participants' Responses to Specific Reasons For Not Wearing Safety Belts and Approaches

As discussed on page 14), a previous NHTSA study (Bradbard et al., 1996) identified three common reasons that people give for not wearing their safety belts in pickup trucks. Because there is not enough time during a typical focus group to discuss each of these three reasons, it was decided that each city would be randomly assigned a reason. These assignments are shown below:

City / State Reason
Detroit, Michigan
"Pickup trucks are big and you ride higher up so you are safer."
Great Falls, Montana
"If I wear my seat belt and it jams, I will be trapped..."
Atlanta, Georgia
"I'm an excellent driver and my reflexes are great..."
Lubbock, Texas
"I'm an excellent driver and my reflexes are great..."

Also, as discussed on page 14, five specific approaches for presenting public information and education (PI&E) materials were identified:

  • Statistical Approach
  • Humorous Approach
  • Celebrity Approach
  • Medical Consequences
  • Consequences to Self and Others Approach

Each focus group discussed these five approaches for presenting PI&E materials as it related to their assigned reason for not wearing safety belts.

Detroit, Michigan:

Reason - "Pickup Trucks are Big"

Discussion - The five approaches were applied to: "Pickup trucks are big and you ride higher up, so you are safer if there is a crash."

1. Statistical Approach

The majority of the Detroit men referred to this as "the numbers game" and overall, did not care for this approach. The general opinion was that you could make numbers say anything you want them to say. The skeptics in both groups did not trust these, or any quoted statistics, to be truthful. Most wanted to know where the numbers came from. Some were surprised the numbers were not larger. Others thought the numbers should be smaller. Regardless, "that's 33 percent of other people, that's not me" was a common philosophy, especially among younger men. Some wanted to know how many people lived or died after being ejected. Most agreed, however, that saying "1 out of 3 people." rather than 33 percent makes the number more understandable to them. A few men did not believe this approach because they thought, "the airbag would stop them." Airbags seem to provide a sense of security, sometimes a false sense of security, for drivers regardless of age.

2. Humorous Approach

The Detroit participants saw this approach as being more sarcastic than funny. Most of the men do not buy this argument and found it "ridiculous" or "retarded." For the younger men, it doesn't provide enough information.

"So what if he hits the concrete wall? Did he get hurt? Did he just have to hold onto his steering wheel tight? Where are you going with this?"

Older men did not believe it either.

"I don't buy this whole thing we can see better any more. Before all these SUV's started coming and before pickup trucks got trendy, yes, you could see the whole road. But now, chances are you're behind some 30-foot Suburban!"

3. Celebrity Approach

This approach received a mixed response. "So what" was the typical reaction from the younger men. Another common response was, "He got a lot of money for doing that commercial." The mistrust and lack of credibility associated with spokespeople, regardless of who they are, was evident here.

They're getting as much as we make in six months for a two-minute commercial.I'm not going to wear a seat belt because of that!"

Older men could see the potential in this approach but only if there were a multitude of celebrities used like in the "Got Milk?" ads. Some in this age group were skeptical too.

He's lying. He doesn't ALWAYS buckle up every time he goes to a game.

He's as big a liar as all the rest of us. We all cheat now and then.

Let's face it; let's really be honest. I'll be the first one."

4. Medical Consequences Approach

This approach was also considered sarcastic. Older men thought:

"This might appeal to the MTV generation because it kind of fits in with their mentality in a way."

Neither younger nor older men cared for this approach, mainly because of the terms 'road kill' and 'great big windshield.' They felt that it lacks seriousness.

5. Consequences to Self and Others Approach

This approach would appeal to older men more IF the person chosen for the ad was an actual survivor of a crash.

"Like a Christopher Reeve type. Perhaps that might make an impression on someone, as long as you don't become sarcastic with it and treat the public like they're only a half a year old."

Younger men really took offense to this approach. Some found it offensive to draw the analogy between the great big pickup truck and the not-so-big wheelchair. Others expressed disbelief that somebody could survive a crash with a tractor-trailer even when wearing a safety belt.

Detroit focus group participants preferred the statistical approach when the percentages were changed to 1 in 3 to make the presentation more understandable. They liked it because it was viewed as the most serious of the five approaches. Crashes are no laughing matter.

"It shouldn't be funny. If there's fatalities involved, it's not really a funny matter. Who is going to listen to you if you're talking to them sarcastically, like half these sentences here?"

The groups did not rule out humor altogether. Nearly all were able to recall the crash test dummies and found them to be funny and memorable. Other advertising remembered was the "Click It or Ticket" campaign on roadside signs and the billboards along the roadway that says, "Buckle Up, It's The Law."

Great Falls, Montana:

Reason - "Could Be Trapped"

Discussion - The five approaches were applied to: "If I wear my seat belt and it jams, I will be trapped in my pickup truck if there is a crash."

1. Statistical Approach

About half of the participants in the two Great Falls focus groups found this reason for not buckling up to be believable. Some said that since safety belts are mechanical they could have a tendency not to work in all situations. But they were not sure whether to believe the statistical approach because several of the men had never heard of safety belts jamming and none shared that concern. A few men discredited the statement because law enforcement said it. A typical response was:

"I have no clue so I'll believe them I guess."

2. The Humorous Approach

The participants did not find this approach humorous, if anything they thought it was bad humor. According to two young pickup truck drivers-

"This guy is screwed! I don't think anyone would say that."

"Maybe you could joke about it after if you were in that position."

3. Celebrity Approach

The men from Montana did not think using Randy Travis as a spokesperson would work there. They too were cynical and felt that he was making the statement for the money.

"He rides around on a big tour bus. Do you think he wears a seat belt? I don't think a spokesperson in general (works). I'm not affected. Like I don't go out and buy shoes because Michael Jordon wears those. To me, that kind of stuff doesn't work."

4. Medical Consequences Approach

Most of the men thought the excuse given for not wearing a safety belt sounded like a poor excuse. Two older participants commented that this made no sense to them because in all their years of driving and seeing bad crashes, they had never seen anyone who was buckled up and died. (Author's note: apparent misunderstanding with this approach because the scripted example was intended to mean that the driver was not wearing their safety belt).

5. Consequences to Self and Others Approach

Most participants believed that "reality" works best. However, several younger men in their twenties said death is not something they fear. What they do fear is becoming paralyzed or losing a leg or an arm.

Atlanta, Georgia:

Reason - " I am a Good Driver "

Discussion - The five approaches were applied to: "I'm an excellent driver and my reflexes are great, so I'm not concerned about getting in a crash."

Overall, participants felt this theme was a little too cocky. Two younger men said:

(This driver) "Thinks more highly of himself than he ought to."

"Somebody who would say that is a complete dumb___."

Older men took a different outlook but came to the same conclusion:

"We could be quick but not quick enough. They always say to drive for the

next person." You have to worry about everybody else on the road."

1. Statistical Approach

Young and old alike agreed wholeheartedly with this statement, but suggested that it is other people who are misjudging their own driving abilities.

"Who is going to rate themselves below average?"

"A lot of people overrate their driving skills."

Both age groups found this approach hard to believe. Older drivers in particular thought using statistics skewed the statement because they believe that the only statistics that are used are the ones that help "the cause." One participant thought the only way to make this statement believable would be to say:

". 99.8 percent of accidents are caused by the 83 percent of drivers that rate themselves well above average or above average."

2. Humorous Approach

Young pickup truck drivers found the statement arrogant.

"If he was such a good driver, why didn't he see the guy coming at him and get out of the way?"

Older drivers did not believe the statement.

"First of all, you wouldn't go through your windshield if you got hit from the rear. You'd go back into the bed of the truck in itially, you'd go backward before you went forward."

Both age groups thought the driver was passing the buck, saying in effect, I'm glad it's his fault.

3. Celebrity Approach

The celebrity spokesperson approach using Sammy Sosa in Atlanta was a little more effective than Cal Ripken, Jr. was in Detroit. Older drivers could relate to Sammy Sosa. His character was untarnished and they could relate to the play on words of 'quick behind the wheel and quick at bat'. In fact, they felt that this approach would work with any spokesperson.

"It could be anybody who shows by their actions that they respect others and it's not do as I say but do as I do."

Younger men, on the other hand, did not believe the "celebrity thing."

"How often do you think Sammy Sosa drives ---- You know he's got a chauffeur!"

"Most people know if he's on TV making that statement, he's getting some kind of gratuity for it."

4. Medical Consequences Approach

The medical consequences approach did not make sense to either age group of pickup truck drivers. They thought it sounded too one-sided. For the younger men, the person with the smaller vehicle wants you to take his side and chances are the person driving that vehicle was probably at fault. For older men, it meant the situation got away from the driver of the smaller truck and his reaction time was not right.

5. Consequences to Self and Others Approach

Participants appreciated this approach because they were able to relate to it. They called it "real life" and said the wheelchair was very graphic. In general, the Atlanta participants remembered and criticized the "Buckle Up, It's the Law" roadside campaign. Several men did not find the ad effective.

"Those ___ you off because, it's like, who wants to be told 'Hey you're 38, 39, 40 years old and you are going to do this. You're a rational thinking adult-- you should have a choice to make your own decisions."

For some, the marketing that has appealed to kids has worked because the kids become the focus rather than the adult.

".The seat belt police, they won't let me drive unless I have it on.

It's easier to put it on than listen to them."

Lubbock, Texas:

Reason - "I am a Good Driver"

Discussion - The five approaches were applied to: "I'm an excellent driver and my reflexes are great so I'm not concerned about getting in a crash."

1. Statistical Approach

The men in the English-speaking group agreed that in order to strengthen the statistical approach, local rather than national statistics should be provided along with more specific information such as the speed at which the driver, not wearing the safety belt, was traveling. In general, they did not trust the statistical information.

The Hispanic men did not find the statistical approach to be particularly good primarily because of a general mistrust of statistics in general. They consider statistics to be misleading and irrelevant. One exception that could make a statistical approach viable would be if the numbers used were truly reflective their own local area.

2. Humorous Approach

The English-speaking group found the humorous approach distasteful. Participants thought the subject matter was too serious to be paired with humor. They also voiced concern regarding children who might take the humor literally, which they thought would be counterproductive.

The Spanish-speaking men liked this approach the least of all five approaches. They agreed that the theme is too serious and eliciting laughter is "completely inappropriate and immoral." They said that humor denies the seriousness of the message.

3. Celebrity Approach

The focus group participants mistrusted celebrities as honest representatives of commercial products and concepts. They did not believe that they would convince anyone of their message. In any event, if a spokesperson were used, they felt that civil leaders rather than movie stars should deliver the message. The Hispanic pickup truck drivers, however, generally liked the celebrity spokesperson approach. They said they would feel motivated to wear their safety belt if they believed that the spokesperson were credible. Three such individuals mentioned by some in the Hispanic group were Ricardo Montalban, Vincente Fernandes, and Sammy Sosa.

4. Medical Consequences Approach

The men in this focus group said that the fear factor worked for them. They also said that the impact of such an approach would be short lived and that, if shown over and over again, the effectiveness of the messages would wear off.

The Hispanic men said that while they are accustomed to viewing gory real-life images in the Mexican media, they have not been desensitized to the power of such images and find them highly effective. They reported that images of collision victims would act as a great motivating factor and specifically recommended the approach for Latinos.

5. Consequences to Self and Others Approach

This group of Texans said that the consequences to self and others approach had the most impact on them and was their favorite theme. Their reaction to what they read and discussion for this approach illustrated for them pain and harm to their family members. This resulted in strong emotions of sadness and feelings of guilt.

The Hispanic group agreed that the consequences to self and others approach had the most impact on them too. They appreciated the effectiveness of mental images relating to family. When asked to imagine their own children hurt in a collision as a result of their neglect by not requiring the children to wear their safety belts, they felt devastated. The men said that the reason this approach is so effective is that it highlights an essential value of Hispanic culture, namely the commitment to the welfare of the family. The message, therefore, speaks to them in a very direct and emotional way.

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