Did You Learn A Lot From a Dummy?

Jan 07

On Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced the results of a 2008 survey which found that that seat belt use has reached 85% among U.S. adults.  Only 11% wore them in 1982, which was prior to the first state law requiring seat belt use.

Additional research released by CDC showed that non-fatal vehicle crash injuries reduced by more than 15% between 2001 and 2009, which can be partly attributed to increased seat belt use.  These results showed that the U.S. is making progress in the six “winnable battles” in public health that CDC identified in 2010, one of which is motor vehicle injuries.

Along with the laws enacted, several major social marketing campaigns have contributed to this major public behavior change—even though it was over the span of 26 years, 74% is still a huge number!

In 1985, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Ad Council launched the Safety Belt Education campaign featuring Vince and Larry, two crash test dummies that reminded Americans that “You can learn a lot from a dummy!”  In the first six years of the campaign (which was retired in 1999), PSAs garnered more than $337 million in donated media time and space.   More recently, Vince and Larry were donated to the Smithsonian Institution and are now part of the permanent collection of the National Museum of American History.  Here’s a look at one of the old PSAs: Game Show.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) Click It or Ticket campaign has a catchy name and a simple message.  Their primary audience is men ages 18-34, the least likely population segment to wear seat belts.  Each year, law enforcement agencies nationwide join forces around Memorial Day for an enforcement blitz which is supported by national and local paid advertising and earned media campaigns.

NHTSA also has a Buckle Up America campaign, which reminders drivers and passengers to “Buckle Up America. Every Trip. Every Time.”

I found this PSA from the UK’s Sussex Safer Road Partnership, most engaging as it tugs at the heart strings rather than focusing on fear of getting a ticket or being unsafe.

Can you think of any memorable social marketing campaigns that encourage safe driving? I focused on seat belt use, but what about drunk/drugged driving and distracted driving?

This entry was posted on Friday, January 7th, 2011 at 2:15 pm and is filed under Behavior Change, Public Health, Social Marketing. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

2 Responses to “Did You Learn A Lot From a Dummy?”

  1. Ashley Wolos says:

    Thanks Lauren for providing your insight on such an important topic. I do remember seeing PSAs with the crash dummies
    When I was younger my dad didn’t always wear his seat belt and I would tell him he needed to for me. So that video really hit home. For his generation it just wasn’t a norm as it is for ours.
    I know the DOT started a campaign last year (distraction.gov) and believe Oprah even partnered with it but I wouldn’t have seen the campaign if I hadn’t been interested is social marketing so I don’t think it’s made as much of an impact as it could have. Hopefully it’ll continue on and reach more people.
    An interesting campaign to combat speeding in Australia can be found at http://www.rta.nsw.gov.au/roadsafety/speedandspeedcameras/campaigns/pinkie.html.
    It was embraced by Australians, in particular younger drivers, and became a cultural symbol to remind speeders that no one thinks big of them.

  2. Angie Markwald says:

    OPR has worked for years helping the State of California increase their seat belt use rate to more than 96 percent – one of the top three in the country! This has been an uphill battle in such a large and diverse state, but the rewards are well worth it. Clearly distracted driving has now been added to their top list of highway safety priorities – we hope to continue our work in this arena as well.