Reacting to a recently released Michigan State U. study that found low levels of safety belt use in feature films, the Entertainment Industries Council (EIC) plans to revitalize its onscreen “Buckle Up Hollywood!” movement.

EIC senior VP Larry Deutchman feels strongly that Hollywood has a positive role to play in encouraging seat belt use, now mandatory for driver and front-seat passengers in 49 states and the District of Columbia.

“In light of President Clinton’s new goal to achieve 85% national safety belt use by the year 2000, and the successful role our industry played in raising belt use in the ’80s, it’s time for the newest generation of performers and creators to start reflecting the current normalcy of buckling up,” said Deutchman, who headed the Council’s earlier “Buckle Up Hollywood!” effort during the 1980s.

The MSU study, which surveyed 50 of the top 64 films in 1996 ticket sales, showed safety belt use in Hollywood products far below the national rate of 68%. Only 23% of drivers and 14% of passengers portrayed in the films studied bothered to buckle up.

The study found an even lower rate for teens and twentysomethings, who have “the worst motor vehicle accident rates and the most motor vehicle deaths,” with 10% of drivers and 9% of passengers in that age group using seat belts.

In addition, air bags and child restraint devices were virtually absent in the movies analyzed.

“With fewer than one in four drivers, and only one in seven passengers, protecting themselves, the movie portrayals are out of line with the law and with how people actually drive and ride,” said Bradley Greenberg, MSU prof and the study’s director.

In a campaign to instruct Hollywood about the intricacies of proper seat belt use, EIC will distribute “depiction suggestions” to more than 1,500 writers, producers, directors and creative executives. There will also be a peer-to-peer letter to performers asking them to join with them and buckle up onscreen when possible.

EIC is a national nonprofit organization formed by the entertainment industry in 1983 to serve as a bridge between the entertainment community and the public interest in addressing health and social issues.

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