Controversial Zero Fatalities ad highlights another reason to buckle up

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SALT LAKE CITY -- The Utah Department of Transportation and the Zero Fatalities campaign hope their new "Twist" ad will encourage more people to use seat belts.

The ad was unveiled Sunday on FOX 13 during Super Bowl XLVIII. (Use the video player above to watch it.)

At the beginning of the ad, a young boy appears to be asleep in a car seat. As the camera zooms away, the viewer learns the boy was killed when an unbuckled parent flew into the back seat of the car after a collision.

"Being unbuckled increases the risk of injury or death to other passengers by 40%," according to the ad.

John Gleason from the Utah Department of Transportation and Sgt. Todd Royce from the Utah Highway Patrol came to the FOX 13 Studio Monday morning to talk about the ad, its message and the reactions people have had to it. (scroll to the bottom of this post to watch their appearance on FOX 13's Good Day Utah)

"Our hope is that this is going to spark a conversation and maybe [...] motivate someone who doesn't typically wear their seat belt to start buckling up," Gleason said. "This commercial demonstrates that there are very real consequences to other people in the car. If you're not buckled up, you can act as a projectile."

The ad drew a mixed reaction from people who left comments on the FOX 13 News Facebook page Monday morning.

"My daughter was completely traumatized by that commercial! What a horrible thing to watch during what is supposed to be a "fun" game!," one commenter wrote.

Others called the ad "upsetting" and "disgusting."

Gleason admits the ad is hard-hitting and he sympathizes with people who were watching the game with young children, but emphasized the importance of communication among family members  about car safety.

"That's what we're hoping for here is that this is going to create a conversation within the family and maybe a new way to look at buckling up - that it's not just affecting you," Gleason said. "It affects everyone else in your vehicle and then everyone else out on the road. If you're thrown from your seat and you can't control your car, that becomes a huge danger to everyone else."

Other online commenters appreciated the message.

"It never occurred to me that an unbuckled person could kill someone by "flying" through the car and I'm sorry if anyone had to relive a tragedy like that, but if it saves any lives, it was worth it," a commenter on the Zero Fatalities Facebook page said. "I have grandchildren now and, like I said, I had not realized they could die that way in an accident."

Sgt. Royce said, as a law enforcement officer, he sees the effects of not buckling up first-hand.

"It affects everybody," Royce said. "We need to have everybody buckled up in those cars."

Click here to leave your comments on the Zero Fatalities Facebook page.

Video: UDOT's John Gleason and UHP's Sgt. Todd Royce talk about Zero Fatalities "Twist" ad:


  • Nathan B

    I am sorry, while I understand the need to make the public aware of the problem, this add made me SICK. I have a teenage daughter that was very Disturbed by this ad, please find another way to get your message out to the public.

    • Catherine

      I saw an ad when I was a teen that didn’t just speak of the dangers of an unrestrained passenger but very clearly highlighted just how the body could become a projectile. I NEVER allow anyone or anything unrestrained in my vehicle if it has the potential to become dangerous. I have even gone so far as to add restraints to food dishes. My pets, when they travel, are buckled in as well. I never want my precautions to be necessary. I want far less for them to have been needed and I not put them in place. Your daughter will be behind the wheel soon enough, if she isn’t already. Perhaps this isn’t the method you’d have chosen to give this vital lesson, but she will never forget and it may very well save her life.

  • Shawn

    I am not sure why this ad is making people so disturbed. If people don’t watch stuff like svu or other horrible stuff on tv then I can understand someone being disturbed, but if they watch violence on tv involving children then i really can’t understand their reaction. If anything, this should be an eye opener. Maybe lives will be saved. Sorta like when people rubberneck at car accidents and they get a wake up call seeing all the carnage. Same thing. If you don’t ever rubberneck when you don’t have to then I can understand this being disturbing, if you do rubberneck then I don’t understand how people were offended. Like I said, maybe people will buckle up now.

  • Mikee

    If that ad truly upsets you, stop watching TV. The physical violence during the super bowl far exceeds anything that ad shows. I’d be willing to bet money the only reason people are upset is because they don’t like being shown the consequences of their irrational fear of seat belts. I’ve seen the effects of accidents involving people that weren’t properly belted, things far worse than a kid that looks like he’s just asleep. I hope this new ad actually drills itself down into the deepest parts of peoples minds so they’ll remember to buckle up.

  • Melissa Lewis

    Sometimes kids asking their parents to explain something like this ad is the ONLY way to get those parents to buckle up! Nothing else seems to work in this ‘my way every day’ society. Maybe this finally will get the message across. If your kid has a problem with the ad, make sure to reassure him/her that it won’t happen to them and then BUCKLE UP when you get in the car to reinforce your assurance.

    • Finny Wiggen

      With all due respect Melissa, that is just not an intelligent argument. It is not your job, nor that of anyone else to decide what I should or should not discuss with my children.

      Further, it is not an intelligent premise that buckling up adults saves lives, unless we are also going to buckle up dogs, groceries, golf clubs, or anything else that can become a projectile.

      You are perfectly within your rights to educate, according to your point of view.

      However, you cross a clear and obvious line (obvious to any thinking adult) when you attempt to force a conversation between parents and children.

      Especially when it is done in such a graphic and inappropriate way.

  • Finny Wiggen

    There was nothing okay about this commercial. I found it highly offensive.

    The last thing I needed, was to have to explain to my seven children, several of which are small, why there was a dead child on our 120″ HD screen.

    You know families are watching…
    It was poor taste, offensive, downright idiotic to show it.

  • Kelly

    Buckling up is one of the best ways to protect yourself from injury in a car crash, as well as protect your passengers. The “projectile” factor is just one reason for that. There are others as well, that relate to structural integrity of the vehicle.

    Parents with kids near driving age should know that seat belt usage rates are often low with teenagers. It’s one of the reasons that young drivers are especially at risk for injuries & death in car crashes.

    Moms & Dads who want to protect their children should take a little time to educate themselves about the risks for teen drivers. It’s an important issue & many parents find the information they learn quite shocking. Ignorance in this area is not bliss; it’s much better to learn the facts & the options for improving your own child’s odds.

    Parents looking for helpful information can find a free pdf called “3 Costly Mistakes Teen Drivers Make – that parents can prevent!” on this website: It includes some fascinating facts, but more important, excellent ideas & solutions for families.

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