V. Partnership and
Public Information & Education

In response to the Buckle Up America Initiative, countless national and local corporations and private sector non-profit organizations mounted efforts to promote seat belt and child safety seat use. The contribution of these groups was to expand public information & education, a principal BUA component. There are many examples of companies that donated time, money, and resources in connection with BUA events. Several, certainly not all, are mentioned below.

Air Bag and Seat Belt Safety Campaign

The Air Bag and Seat Belt Safety Campaign (AB&SBSC), established June 1996, is an organization under the auspices of the National Safety Council. Begun as an effort to maximize the lifesaving benefits of air bags, AB&SBSC grew rapidly into a role that made them a prominent supporter of BUA. AB&SBSC was contacted for telephone interview, during which general topics pertaining to BUA related activities were covered. At that time, requests were made so that additional materials and information related to lobbying, enforcement, and public information and education would be gathered.

To date, AB&SBSC goals have included educating the public to the benefits and problems associated with occupant restraint, mobilizing statewide and national efforts to enforce occupant restraint laws, and participating as a facilitator for improving seat belt legislation in a number of states. They have supported all four BUA components, building partnerships, enacting new legislation, conducting strong enforcement, and expanding public information & education.

Backers and Partner


  • Automobile manufacturers
  • Insurance companies
  • Child safety seat manufacturers
  • Occupant restraint manufacturers


  • National government officials
  • Local government officials
  • Health professionals
  • Law enforcement professionals
  • Fire and safety professionals
  • Concerned volunteers

AB&SBSC has sponsored, co-sponsored, and attended numerous events, conferences, and one-on-one meetings inviting greater participation. These activities resulted in a growing number of public/private groups promoting the correct use of occupant restraints. A large network of partners continues to give AB&SBSC avenues by which goals of passing new legislation, supporting more enforcement, and educating the public can be accomplished.

Enacting New Legislation

AB&SBSC targeted a number of states where attempts to pass stronger occupant restraint legislation were underway. In the last two years, with assistance from AB&SBSC, three states changed from a secondary enforcement belt law to a primary law. These states were Alabama, Michigan and New Jersey. More recently, AB&SBSC explained it would focus legislative efforts in four more states, Delaware, Ohio, Wisconsin, and Florida.

AB&SBSC's push for new legislation was based, more or less, on a comprehensive strategy that included continued contact with legislators and key participants in the legislative process. For this task, hired lobbyists were used. Additionally, AB&SBSC organized coalitions of support among medical, safety and victims communities, and public and private safety groups, even grass-roots people. Together these groups assisted through letter writing and call campaigns. Presenting the tragic results from crashes with unprotected occupants was another useful tool for persuasion.

AB&SBSC also used the media extensively to push for new legislation. The media was used to publicize public support for occupant protection laws, including minority support. Another strong point to publicize was that buckled parents usually meant protected children.

While seat belt legislation was said to be the primary focus for lobbying efforts, AB&SBSC also focused attention on closing gaps in child protection laws, and pursuing upgrades such as penalty points and higher fines.

Conducting Strong Enforcement

AB&SBSC supported both local and nationwide occupant protection selective traffic enforcement program (sTEP) efforts. For Nationwide Mobilizations, AB&SBSC provided media and advertising that not only educated the public to the benefit of occupant protection use, but also served to bolster efforts to enforce occupant restraint laws. Often times, AB&SBSC officials made appearances with national, regional, and local officials and law enforcement leaders in order to heighten awareness during sTEP periods.

AB&SBSC made an effort to make all levels of the law enforcement community aware of the needs for occupant restraint enforcement and implored them be active in their particular communities. They also advocated that law enforcement accept offers for occupant restraint training and that they participated in activities like Operation ABC Mobilization and Chief's Challenge. Over 7,000 law enforcement agencies participated in the November 1999, Operation ABC Mobilization, the largest number ever. This number was expected to grow to over 8,000 for the 2000 Mobilizations.

Graphic of America Buckles Up Children, Operation ABC Mobilization Logo

As early as 1997, AB&SBSC provided support and guidance to selected states that would carry out sTEP waves. Since then, eight states participated (Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, New Mexico, North Carolina, New York, South Carolina, Virginia). Wave efforts were statewide and included periods of highly visible enforcement, with public information and education.

Expanding Public Information and Education

Educating the public was a key component of AB&SBSC's activities. Self-reported results of the coverage received for the November 1999, Operation ABC Mobilization are shown on the subsequent page.

AB&SBSC Media Coverage; 
November 1999, Operation Mobilization 

Overall Coverage

  • Coverage in ten of the top ten media markets, totaling more than 115 news stories, including: the CBS Morning News; CBS Evening News; NBC Today Show; Good Morning America; CNN National Early Edition; CNN Headline News; CNN; All News Cable Channel; Univision; and Univision's Despierta America
  • Coverage in 48 of the top 50 media markets, totaling more than 287 news stories 
  • More than 530 local stories across the nation that reached 23 million Americans 
  • Total audience estimated at 64 million Americans 

Print Coverage

  • Stories in nine of the ten top markets, including: the New York Times; USA Today; Washington Post; Los Angeles Times; Philadelphia Inquirer; Chicago Tribune; Detroit Free Press; Detroit News; Atlanta Journal-Constitution; Boston Globe; Boston Herald; and Dallas Morning News
  • Favorable editorials in the Washington Post, USA Today, and Chicago Tribune 
  • Total print stories estimated at 1,500
  • Total circulation estimated at 47 million 

Radio Coverage

  • Interviews on five national radio networks, including: ABC; CBS; CNN; National Public Radio; and American Urban Radio
  • 25 interviews with Campaign Spokespeople in seven of the top ten media markets

Support from Employers

Many safety conscious employers have adopted BUA as part of their overall employee safety programs. A non-profit organization, Network of Employers for Traffic Safety (NETS) was, and continues to be, active in promoting BUA through its Belt America 2000 campaign. NETS promotes employee education activities stressing the importance of using seat belts and child safety seats, encourages employers to do observational surveys to track seat belt use, and provides awards for attainment of high rates of seatbelt usage. NETS has also sold a variety of promotional items reminding employees to buckle up. In November 1999, the NETS web site saluted 31 government, non-profit, and business organizations that had documented seat belt use rates beyond the 85% goal of the National Initiative. Businesses included in the list were: Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Railroad (89%), GEICO Direct (95%), General Motors Service Parts Operations (86%), Mitsubishi Motor Sales of America (94%), NCR Corporation (86%), PHH Vehicle Management Services (90%), Quicksilver Express Courier (90%), TML Information Services, Inc. (96%), Consumers Energy (96%), and United Parcel Service Centers (98%).

Graphic of NETS Logo (Network of Employers for Traffic Safety)

Support from the Trucking Industry

Several trucking companies put effort towards publicizing BUA. For example, American Freightways painted 1,500 freight trailers as rolling BUA billboards, reminding motorists to use seatbelts and child restraints. Opies Transport, Inc., put 15 new cargo tank trailers displaying the BUA Logo into service in the fourth quarter of 1999. Two large contract carriers, Morrell Distribution Services and the McLane Company, delivering freight to Walmart stores across the country, installed BUA mud flaps on their rolling stock.

ABF, a very large national carrier, started an extensive internal seatbelt awareness campaign and paid for a billboard advertising the BUA campaign in a very prominent location. Aggregate Haulers, Inc., which operates about 500 trucks in Louisiana, Oklahoma and Texas, also carried messages advertising the BUA campaign while delivering construction materials. Standard Fruit and Vegetables Company displayed BUA banners on its 45 tractor-trailers which travel a nine-state area around Texas, and published a full page article on the importance of seat belt use in their company newsletter, The Road to Safety. Williams Brothers Construction Company ordered 100 bilingual BUA signs and 500 bumper stickers for their vehicles operating in the Houston area and other construction sites in the southwest.

Support from Professional Sports

Organized sports sanctioning bodies have promoted BUA at nationally televised sporting events, especially motor sports organizations. For example, Colorado National Speedway painted the BUA logo on the track, and racer Jeff Burton painted it on his car at NASCAR's 1999 Labor Day Winston Cup race. BUA announcements were given during the national TV coverage of the event. Similarly, CART, the sanctioning body for America's most prestigious open wheel auto racing series, participated in a media event for BUA week in Clark, Nevada. NHTSA, the Nevada Office of Highway Safety, the Nevada Highway Patrol, and local law enforcement agencies also participated. The event included the "Convincer," promotional materials and a raffle for students who signed a pledge to always wear seat belts. Local TV coverage was provided by ABC, NBC and CBS affiliates.

Major League Baseball also has provided venues to promote the BUA initiative. For example, then NHTSA Administrator, Dr. Ricardo Martinez, was the guest of the San Francisco Giants on Traffic Safety Day in May 1999. Parking lot pre-game demonstrations and exhibits were provided by state and local police, and by AAA, Bicycle Safety Network, Kaiser Permanente, Sam Trans/CalTrain, and Roadway Express.

Exemplary Support from Large Corporations

Massive efforts to promote occupant protection were undertaken by a number of large American corporations. Two of the many exemplary efforts are described below.

Progressive Insurance Mounts Massive Ad Campaign

Progressive Insurance made the Buckle-Up theme the centerpiece of its 1999 national advertising campaign. Progressive launched the campaign on national television on January 31, 1999, just before the half time show of Super Bowl XXXIII, which they sponsored. The commercial, which featured "E.T., the Extra-Terrestrial," raised consumer brand awareness for the company while reminding viewers to always buckle up. The well-known character from the classic movie was used with the cooperation of Amblin Entertainment and Universal Studios.

The company continued to use the theme in all of its national advertising through April 1999. The size of the campaign was immense, reaching 90% of adult viewers (25-54) an average of 12 times during the first quarter of 1999. This totals an estimated 1.2 billion impressions.

Progressive also produced seat belt and child safety seat educational materials featuring E.T., including a public service announcement, aired on TV stations throughout the country. There were also E.T. coloring books and posters for distribution at events and in schools. A child passenger safety curriculum, named "E.T.'s Car Safety Challenge," was developed jointly by Progressive, Amblin/Universal, and Learning Works and was distributed by Learning Works to a target market of 1,677 elementary schools in 12 states and the District of Columbia.

Progressive provided free roadside signs to organizations that could place them in locations where they are visible to traffic. The signs were made available in a variety of formats, including the familiar diamond shaped yellow advisory signs that are used to warn of hazards ahead. The plan, to place the highly visible signs in communities around the country, is growing. Connecticut was one of the first states to receive signs, where city planners and engineers ordered nearly 4,000 of them.

Photo of Buckle Up Road Sign (Sign has graphic of ET wearing a Seat Belt)

Progressive partners with federal, state, and local government agencies and private sector groups promoting highway safety on a range of issues in 48 of the 50 states. The company's Safety Director promotes and tracks safety programs across the country and the General Manager for each state is empowered and encouraged to support local highway safety initiatives. Progressive has often been listed among coalition members supporting stronger seat belt legislation.

Progressive's General Manager in Connecticut worked with the Connecticut Highway Safety Office, providing 4,000 E.T. buckle up posters for placement where they will reach parents of pre-school children. E.T. buckle up coloring books and other E.T. buckle up items also were provided directly to community organizations. Progressive donated a roll-over simulator to the Connecticut State Police, purchased child passenger safety trailers for the Safe Kids Coalition's use at safety seat clinics, and developed a "Saved by the Belt Club" program in conjunction with the Connecticut Department of Transportation.

Additional buckle up activities by Progressive included: sponsorship of a safety event at an LPGA golf tournament in California; participation in the Seats for Kids safety seat program with the Denver Department of Health Services; sponsorship of child passenger safety activities with the Delaware Public Safety Office, EMS, State Parks and Community Traffic Safety Programs; support for legislative efforts in Florida; participation in Georgia Safe Kids child safety seat check points (including a $5,000 donation for seats); donation of safety seats to the Louisiana State Patrol, the Maryland State Patrol, and Maryland Safe Kids; distribution of E.T. buckle up materials through all law enforcement agencies in Minnesota; sponsorship of the "Think About Tomorrow" presentation on seat belt use and underage drinking; sponsorship of seat belt activities at the Salt Lake City Safe Kids Coalition Safety Fair; and sponsorship of Child Protection Specialist Training classes for law enforcement officers in West Virginia.

DaimlerChrysler Establishes "Fitting Stations"

Less than six months after NTSB Chairman James Hall recommended the establishment of permanent "fitting stations" to address non-use and misuse of child safety seats, DaimlerChrysler partnered with Fisher-Price and the National Safety Council and announced "Fit for a Kid." Hall explained that the program "goes beyond what we had even imagined...to make child safety seat inspections an integral part of the safety service for customers of one of the world's largest corporations."

Announced in June 1999, pilot projects began in four cities by September 1999. The goal was to have trained and certified child safety seat inspectors in 500 dealerships by February 2000, expanding to 1,000 dealerships by November 2000. The program requires training of 2,000 inspectors for full implementation of the planned effort, more than twice the number of child safety seat technicians certified in the entire United States at the time the program started. The Fit for a Kid program will create the capacity to inspect and assure proper installation of 800,000 seats annually. The potential impact of the plan can best be appreciated by comparing this capacity with the estimated 30,000 inspections carried out in 1998 through the combined efforts of all organizations conducting child safety seat clinics and checkpoints.

Graphic of Fit for a Kid Logo

With costs of training underwritten by DaimlerChrysler, the National Safety Council began conducting two employee-training courses a week for about a year, using the Standardized Child Passenger Safety Program created by NHTSA, with certification by AAA. As early as August 1999, training was in progress at the DaimlerChrysler Training Center in Denver, Colorado where NHTSA regional staff assisted with the logistics of the class and a checkpoint at a local mall, where attendees received hands-on experience as part of the course. A similar course for DaimlerChrysler dealer employees was implemented during the same week in California.

Certified child safety technicians at each dealership check customers' child safety seats for damage, recalls, and proper installation. At the time of each inspection, technicians measure child riders to make sure each seat is appropriate for the child. In addition, they instruct parents on how to handle other types of seats and how to install seats in other vehicles. Tethers, to improve the stability of forward facing seats, are installed in Chrysler manufactured vehicles at no charge. Damaged, recalled, or inappropriate seats are replaced with loaners that customers can use until they can purchase an appropriate seat.

Fisher-Price, a leading manufacturer of child safety seats, contributes expertise and material support to the program. The company has provided thousands of its Safe Embrace seats for use as loaners and coupons for discounts to encourage purchase of safe seats.

The concept of the program is to make the free service available to owners of Chrysler, Dodge, Plymouth and Jeep vehicles at conveniently located dealerships, just as they now can schedule routine services to their vehicles. To make it easy to find a dealer with certified inspectors and schedule an appointment, a toll free phone number and an internet web site were established.

Costs of the program, to be paid by DaimlerChrysler, have been estimated by the National Safety Council at $10 to $15 million annually.

Support from Other Automobile Manufacturers

General Motors, Chevrolet Division, provided 51 Venture minivans, each containing all the equipment necessary for car seat clinics, to the National SAFE KIDS Campaign, who uses them to deliver instruction to families and awareness to the motoring public. The vans, manned by trained SAFE KIDS coalition members, are used primarily at dealerships, day care centers, and shopping malls throughout the country.

Photo of General Motors Promo Minivan for National SAFE KIDS Campaign

American Honda also promoted child passenger safety. In May 1999, 416 Honda dealers participated in Honda's Child Safety Awareness Day. For the event, NHTSA Region IX partnered with Honda to assure that certified child passenger safety technicians would be available at 35 dealerships in California, four in Hawaii, two in Arizona, and two in Nevada.