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The Center for Transportation Research’s “Seat Belt Convincer.”
Jerry Everett

According to data gathered through surveys in Tennessee, the people least likely to use seat belts are men aged 18 to 32—especially those who drive pickups.

What could convince them to wear their seat belts? Enter CrossFit.

Who are the biggest fans of this fitness explosion?

Did you guess pickup-driving men aged 18 to 32? You were right.

To take advantage of this connection, UT’s Center for Transportation Research (CTR) is partnering with 14 local CrossFit gyms to promote nighttime seat belt use to participants in the Friday Night Lights event series being held in conjunction with the Reebok CrossFit Games Open qualifier.

Supported by a grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), CTR is the lead local sponsor for the competitive series.

CTR’s promotion, Buckle Up Tonight to See Tomorrow, uses several strategies to demonstrate the importance of wearing your seat belt.

One that makes the point emphatically is the Seat Belt Convincer.

The convincer lets riders safely experience the force generated during a crash of five to 10 miles per hour. The ride’s rough ending shows the potential damage a crash can do even at slow speeds.

“This is just a seven-mile-an-hour car crash, but you get quite a jolt at the end,” said one rider at a recent event. “It simulates a slow driving crash, like in a parking lot or rush hour traffic.”

As part of the CDC grant, CTR is encouraging people in the area to wear their seat belt at night. Because the CrossFit community includes many people within CTR’s target demographic, the center’s involvement in the CrossFit games reaches the right audience and ultimately strives to affect their behavior.

Jerry Everett, CTR associate director and director of the project, said, “It’s been a natural fit for us to promote seat belt use alongside businesses with the same goal of bringing about behavioral changes that lead to a safer, more well-rounded, healthier life.”

Knoxville’s own Alex Anderson, a professional CrossFit Games athlete who was named the 11th fittest man in the world for 2016, knows the importance of buckling up.

“I used to not wear my seat belt, but one day it just clicked and I thought, ‘What am I doing? Why wouldn’t I take the time for something so simple when I spend so much time making other choices to better myself?’ ”

The five-week series will be hosted at a different Knoxville CrossFit gym each week, beginning Friday, February 24.

The first event will be hosted at CrossFit Ktown with partners South Landing CrossFit and CrossFit Bearden. Hot 104.5 WKHT will provide radio coverage.

The series will end Friday, March 24, at CrossFit First Creek in North Knoxville. For more information, visit

CTR is implementing the Buckle Up Tonight to See Tomorrow campaign in partnership with the Tennessee Highway Safety Office (THSO), Tennessee Highway Patrol, Knoxville Police Department, and the sheriff’s offices in Blount, Loudon, Roane, and Sevier Counties.

The campaign is part of the final year of a three-year pilot research project funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention with support from THSO. The campaign features enhanced enforcement efforts including saturation patrols and checkpoints, an extensive media campaign, and ongoing community outreach using the Seat Belt Convincer.

The Center for Transportation Research was created in 1970 to foster and facilitate interdisciplinary research, public service, and outreach in the field of transportation at UT. It began full-time operations in 1972. As a research center under the auspices of UT’s Tickle College of Engineering, CTR oversees programs associated with the education, research, training, and workforce aspects of the transportation field.

CTR’s research in transportation is recognized for its excellence, comprehensiveness, innovation, productivity, and national leadership. The center develops and sustains the technical expertise for high-quality transportation research by UT faculty and students.

CTR serves the transportation research, service, and training needs of state and local government, business, and industry in Tennessee, the Southeast, and the nation.


Christine Waxstein, (865-974-8732