Eight focus groups were conducted with younger and older male pickup truck drivers who live and work in the rural areas of four different States. There were several objectives for conducting the focus groups: (1) to find out more about specific approaches and message themes that might convince male pickup truck drivers to use their safety belts; (2) to determine attitudes about allowing children to travel in the cargo area of pickup trucks; and (3) to investigate any differences in these issues between Hispanic and non-Hispanic pickup truck drivers.
Focus group research is intended to gain insight about the perception of various themes and methods for public educational and information campaigns. The data are qualitative, rather than quantitative, and provide insight and understanding about particular issues. The findings are not a statistical representation of how rural, male pickup truck drivers view safety issues and safety belt use.
To obtain a variety of viewpoints during the focus groups, one State was chosen where safety belt laws covering pickup trucks differed from laws covering passenger cars. In some States, safety belt use is not required in pickup trucks if the driver is at least 18 years old. Both crash incidence and rates for pickup truck fatalities during the last several years were reviewed to identify States where the crash, injury, and fatality rates were high. Belt use rates were also reviewed. The selected States were a geographically diverse representation: Georgia, Michigan, Texas, and Montana.
Three of the States (Georgia, Michigan, and Texas) had primary safety belt laws. Montana had a secondary safety belt law. Generally, safety belt use is higher in States with primary safety belt laws than in those with secondary laws: 77 percent versus 65 percent in 2000.
Data Update: NOPUS 2003 shows 83% safety belt use in States with primary laws versus 75% in States with secondary laws.
Georgia : Occupant protection laws were not the same for pickup trucks and other passenger vehicles; adult pickup truck occupants were not required to wear a safety belt. Although the State had a primary enforcement law, pickup truck occupants 18 years old and older were exempt. The law prohibits persons under age 18 from riding in the cargo area of pickup trucks on interstate highways.
Michigan : Occupant protection laws were the same for pickup trucks and other passenger vehicles; all front seat occupants must wear their safety belt. Children under the age of four may not ride in the cargo area. Children between the ages of four and 15 may ride in the cargo area of a pickup truck if all other safety belts are in proper use and there are more passengers than safety belts.
Montana : Occupant protection laws were the same for all motor vehicles and Montana's law States that: "No driver may operate a motor vehicle upon a highway in the State of Montana unless each occupant of a designated seating position is wearing a properly adjusted and fastened safety belt." Children may not ride in the cargo area of pickup trucks if there is available seating inside the vehicle; otherwise it is permitted.
Texas : Occupant protection laws were the same for pickup trucks and other passenger vehicles. The driver and front seat passengers are required to wear safety belts. Children under 12 years of age many not travel in the cargo area if the vehicle is traveling faster than 35 mph.
Law update : In 2002, this provision was amended to prohibit children under age 18 from riding in the cargo area.
The focus groups were conducted in 2001. Two groups each were conducted near:
- Atlanta, Georgia - two in English
- Detroit, Michigan - two in English
- Great Falls, Montana - two in English
- Lubbock, Texas - one in English, one in Spanish
All participants in the eight groups were men who either lived or worked in rural areas. Two age groups were recruited for each city: a younger group between the ages of 18 and 27 and another group ages 28 and older. The majority of men drove pickup trucks most of the time. The few men who drove another type of passenger vehicle most of the time also had a pickup truck available for use in their household.
All of the participants described themselves as wearing safety belts "sometimes," "seldom" or "never." About half of the drivers had children present in their households. A sample-screening tool used for recruiting can be found in Appendix F.