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





Moderator's Guide and Topics of Discussion

The moderator's guide included six areas of concentration for directing the discussions (see Appendix G). A Spanish translation of the moderator's guide was prepared for the Spanish-language group.

  • Introduction
  • Attitudes towards safety measures
  • Safety belt utilization
  • Response to motivational efforts -- reasons for not wearing safety belt with five different approaches
  • Response to existing campaigns and properties --TV and radio spots, pamphlets, bumper stickers, and posters
  • Development of campaign components -- participant themes and messages

There are a number of recurring reasons and excuses people give for not wearing safety belts. A 1996 NHTSA study of strategies to increase safety belt use among young males in rural areas reported cultural and psychological barriers to developing effective safety belt campaigns (Bradbard et al., 1996). Three of the most common reasons people gave for not wearing their safety belt in the 1996 study were tested in these focus groups:

  • Pickup trucks are big and I ride higher up, so I am safer if there is a crash;
  • I'm an excellent driver and my reflexes are great, so I'm not concerned about getting in a crash; and
  • If I wear my safety belt and it jams, I will be trapped in my pickup truck if there is a crash.

Existing Campaigns/Materials

Next, materials were gathered in response to a letter sent to the 50 States, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and Guam asking for copies of their public information and education campaigns specifically geared to occupant protection issues among pickup truck drivers. The type of material, message, and the State that provided the material are summarized below. More details are provided in Appendix H.

Table 8
Summary of State Pickup Truck Safety Campaigns

Type of Material




"Don't Be Road Kill" Ted Nugent
"No Excuses"
"Kids Aren't Cargo"

New Mexico Illinois

Bumper Sticker:

"The Nuge Says"



"Stupid Pickup Line # 49"

"Forgot to Tie Down One Vital Piece"




30 second radio safety belt spot

60 second radio stories about crashes




"What's Holding You Back Oklahoma?"

Aftermath of Crash of a Pickup Truck



Radio Script:

"I Love My Pickup"

"The Bet"



The public information and education efforts, listed above, were then categorized according to the type of approach used. The following five types of approach "styles" were identified:

  • Statistical Approach;
  • Humorous Approach;
  • Celebrity Spokesperson Approach;
  • Medical Consequences Approach; and
  • Consequences to Self and Others Approach.

Some of these tactics (e.g., Consequences to Self and Others Approach) were recommended by Bradbard et al. (1996) and others (e.g., the Statistical Approach) have a long-standing history of use in educational efforts.

Each focus group was assigned one of the three popular misconceptions identified above by pickup truck drivers, as reasons for not buckling up. The research team generated examples using each of the five approaches (statistical, humorous, celebrity spokesperson, medical consequences, consequences to self and others) to refute the misconception. The participants then discussed which approach they thought would be most effective with pickup truck drivers in increasing their safety belt use. The focus group members were asked not to concentrate on specific messages but rather the value of each of the five approaches. For example, they were not being asked about a specific celebrity spokesperson but rather if using a "famous" person to provide the information would be an effective media approach.

The next exercise was for each of the focus groups to respond to existing safety belt campaign materials designed to target pickup truck drivers. Each group evaluated at least two videos, two radio spots, two radio scripts, two posters, two bumper stickers, and one pamphlet from among the materials listed in Table 8 above.

The final exercise was designed to generate innovative and creative ideas from the participants for possible media development.

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