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' Safety Belt Use

Many of the men indicated they wore a safety belt when driving a car because of the presence of other family members - children, wives, siblings, mothers, and girlfriends. Several felt they "had" to buckle up to set a good example. But, in their pickup trucks , few said they wore their safety belt. They believed they were safer in their truck due to its sheer size. In addition, most of the time they are alone in their pickup truck and thus did not feel they needed to answer to anyone.

"Trucks are better vehicles... I was in a wreck. we drilled the back of his car... it totaled out his car. We had to replace our front bumper and that was that." Atlanta, Georgia - (18-27 year old male)

"Trucks are bigger. You don't get hurt. You feel a little bit safer driving a truck." Detroit, Michigan - (18-27 year old male)

"Trucks are bigger, more sturdier vehicles. On impact, there's more crush room." Atlanta, Georgia - (18-27 year old male)

The majority of the Hispanic men also indicated they felt quite secure in the trucks they drive. They did say, however, that they wore their safety belts when they made trips away from their hometown, and on long, unfamiliar trips. They saw safety belts as an inconvenience on short local trips. They believed in a strong external locus of control about their destiny (this means the belief that consequences to something are beyond or external to themselves and out of their control):

"Uno ariesga y Dios dira." ("One takes a risk but it is up to God to decide.")

The English-speaking groups, regardless of age, said they typically wore their safety belts when the weather was icy, snowy, foggy, rainy, or when they were traveling in the mountains. They also reported that they wore their safety belts on long journeys, on interstates, in heavy traffic, and near large cities where they associate potentially hazardous situations and careless or dangerous drivers. Some of the men said that they "grab for them if they see a cop" and when riding as a passenger in someone else's vehicle. Most wore safety belts when children got in their vehicle, just for practice and to teach the kids that it's the right thing to do.

All of the participants were aware that their State had a law regarding the use of safety belts. The following reflects their understanding of the laws. Most knew the specifics of these laws as it applied to them. Some were a little sketchy on the details. There was discussion, for instance, as to the laws regarding back seat passengers, specifically who had to be buckled - under 16 years old, under 18 years old, or all passengers. In Michigan, most believed all passengers were supposed to wear a safety belt. In Georgia, they knew safety belts were mandatory in cars but not in pickup trucks. In Montana, they knew the lap belt was required and that people older than 65 did not have to be belted. In addition to requiring safety belt usage of all persons in the vehicle, passengers in Montana under 18 years old are the driver's responsibility .

The Hispanic men from Texas also said they were well aware of the safety belt laws for cars and trucks. They thought the law was a good idea but not the "stiff fines. " One law that they were unclear about was whether passengers could ride in the cargo area of a pickup truck. They said they did not feel insecure or worried taking passengers in the pickup truck bed, in part because they remember traveling this way as children. They do not, however, put their own children in the cargo area and seldom see others ride this way in the United States. They say that it is a practice used only on occasion; for example, if someone required a ride because their car was not working and they urgently needed to get somewhere. Participants in Georgia believed that if you were older than 18 and not riding on the interstate it would be okay to ride in the cargo area and "people do it all the time." Montana participants thought that it was legal if the passengers in the cargo area were sitting down and the driver did not go on the interstate. In Michigan, men knew riding in the back of a pickup truck was illegal, but many saw it "all the time. " The English-speaking Texas participants believed that it is very dangerous to ride as a passenger in the cargo area but believes it was more dangerous to do so in the city than in the fields. In any event, they thought that common sense, rather than the law, should dictate when to ride in the back of a pickup truck.

When the men were asked to describe who they believed were MOST likely to wear safety belts they cited the following: kids, parents, women, the disabled, crash survivors, drunks, owners of new cars, and health or safety conscious individuals. On the other hand, they cited the following as LEAST likely to wear a safety belt: younger, single, men, tall, short, African Americans, delivery and construction workers, and truck drivers.

The Hispanic group of men said they knew they should wear their safety belts but they did not wear them because they:

  • Forgot;
  • Were neglectful ("Tengo desiria");
  • Have not been in a crash themselves so they did not see how safety belts would help;
  • Were "in control," "I know the area in which I drive. I even know the policemen, when and where they will stand."

All of the Hispanic men said that the issue of masculine identity had nothing to do with why they did not wear their safety belts. They did not consider themselves more macho by not wearing a safety belt; they remained ambivalent about wearing the safety belt. For example, on the one hand, they acknowledged the value of safety belts in a rollover crash or in preventing them from being ejected from their vehicle in any kind of crash. On the other hand, they mistrusted the safety belt for fear of being trapped inside after a crash or trapped inside in the case of a fire. One participant mentioned his fear of being unable to unlatch the belt if his hands were broken as a result of the crash.

Participants from all eight groups nearly unanimously agreed on one thing: children need to wear safety belts. In fact, most thought laws for everyone under the age of 18 were justified because young children and teenagers "need to be protected from their own ignorance." Most, however, did not insist that other adults wear a safety belt in their vehicle.

"I honestly don't care if anybody else in the rest of the car - unless they are kids, kids get belted in period. Other than that, if someone wants to sit next to me or behind me and don't wear it, that doesn't bother me. It's up to them to make their own decision. I feel that I'm not driving reckless to where I'm going to cause any of these things to happen. That still can happen but not because I'm driving crazy." Detroit, Michigan - (28 and older male)

Most of the men did not wear safety belts as a child, or if they did it was on an irregular basis.

"My mom was strict about us being buckled, my dad, he didn't care. I used to sit on the arm rest so I could see better when he was driving." Great Falls, Montana - (18-27 year old male)

For older participants, most of the cars that they grew up with did not have safety belts in them.

"I think cars before 1965 didn't have belts." "I just never got in the habit." Lubbock, Texas - (28 and older male)

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