CDOT giant air bag

Colorado Department of Transportation placed a giant air bag on a downtown Denver hotel to make the point that even an air bag will not protect you from someone in the same vehicle who is not wearing a seat belt. Image courtesy CDOT

Here’s a riddle: What’s 45 feet tall and clings to the side of the Courtyard Marriott in Denver?

It’s a sign with a giant, three-dimensional inflated air bag. The Colorado Department of Transportation is debuting the outsized vehicle safety gear in a “wallscape” as part of its Beware of the Beltless campaign to raise awareness of the importance of wearing seat belts.

Unbelted Passenger Danger

The department put the airbag on the building as a reminder that an air bag won’t save you from a passenger who is not wearing a seat belt, wrote CBS4 Denver.

That is because an unbelted passenger is a serious threat to everyone in the car. CDOT spokesman Sam Cole said:

In a crash they essentially become a projectile in that vehicle. They can injure or actually kill you in that crash as they launch through that vehicle.

Beware of the Beltless is one of CDOT’s largest-ever seat belt safety campaigns. The department wants the public to know that refusing to wear a seat belt is not a victimless crime. An unbuckled passenger increases the risk of others in the vehicle being hurt or killed by 40%.

Summer-Long Campaign

Words on the giant air bag say: “THIS WON’T SAVE YOU FROM AN UNBUCKLED FRIEND.” The large prop is part of CDOT’s $450,000 summer-long seat belt awareness campaign that includes radio, TV, internet, and billboard ads. CDOT chose the Marriott at Curtis Street and 16th Street Mall as the site of its wallscape because high traffic in the area, both vehicular and pedestrian, increases the chance that lots of people will see it. The air bag and related wall messages will be on display through July 24.

The campaign will work with 32 partners in six counties, including include military bases, hospitals, businesses, law enforcement agencies, and community groups and events.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Act was established 50 years ago. Unfortunately, even after all that time, 15% of Coloradans today do not wear seat belts. Some counties have a much higher percentage of people who do not buckle up: Baca, Delta, Pueblo, and Denver. Of all the deaths in the state, half, or 181, were people who weren’t wearing seat belts. CDOT asks adults who do wear seat belts to encourage others to do the same.

What’s the Reason for Low Seat Belt Use?

CDOT is frustrated for the following reasons:

  • Colorado ranks 39th in seat belt use
  • Too many people who do not wear seat belts are apathetic
  • The existence of a ‘right to die’ philosophy among some people who do not buckle up
  • The misguided belief among some people that it is safer not to wear a seat belt, which is the opposite of the truth — 20 years of data shows that seat belt use reduces traffic deaths.

“This is a crisis — pure and simple,” CDOT wrote. The department calls for raising awareness in a bold new way, thus the giant air bag. The campaign will also feature crashed car exhibits, highly visible banners, videos, and other materials, and social media, messages, and graphics.