On behalf of Secretary LaHood and the entire Department of Transportation, it was my pleasure today to transfer the original Vince and Larry crash test dummy costumes to the Smithsonian National Museum of American History.
Watch video of Vince and Larry crashing the party (about 38 seconds into the clip) at the Smithsonian
There may be later generations of crash test dummies that are more lifelike and have better technology, but it's hard to imagine any anthropomorphic test devices--that's the technical term for these dummies--having a greater impact on safety than Vince and Larry. From 1985 to 1998, they promoted seat belt use in countless public service announcements and posters. And they remain two of the most effective public safety ambassadors in automotive history.
They did their job effectively, too. Because, during that time, public opinion about seat belt use reversed itself, and thousands of lives have been saved.
In 1968, when every new car in America came equipped with seat belts, only 10% of motorists used them. Today, we're up to a record high of 84%. Thanks to Vince and Larry, and the outreach of NHTSA and our safety partners, Americans have embraced the lifesaving benefits of buckling up.
But, along the way, Vince and Larry became more than just safety ambassadors; they became part of our culture. That's why I am so happy to see them assume a place in the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History.
Now they are a true piece of Americana. This is a moment of pride for everyone at DOT.
Even better than Vince and Larry finding a home at the Smithsonian is that they will become part of a larger collection documenting "Automotive Safety Initiatives" in America. The collection also includes one of the first 3-point seat belts from 1961, safe driving guides from AAA dating back to the 1920s, an original collapsible steering column introduced in 1967, and the first padded dashboard, designed by Dr. Clair Straith in the 1930s after seeing far too many crash victims in his surgery.
Denton ATD and General Motors are each donating a real crash test dummy. But, according to GM VP Mike Robinson, "Real crash test dummies don't quite live the celebrity lifestyle of Vince and Larry, and we hope the two we're donating today enjoy a well-deserved retirement."
And just because Vince and Larry have retired, don’t think for a minute that NHTSA is laying low on seat belt use. Vince and Larry’s message holds true today: “You can learn a lot from a dummy…Buckle your safety belt.”
I think it's positively amazing that the Smithsonian wants to celebrate automotive safety. Museum Director Brent Glass said today that, "This collection will try to illustrate the evolution of automobile safety from technological achievements such as air bags, seat belts and crash-test dummies, to the legislative and public-awareness campaigns that encouraged drivers and passengers to buckle up."
Well I think curator Roger White has done a tremendous job of that so far.
Here at NHTSA we pursue automotive safety every day; today we're happy to see that pursuit on display at the Smithsonian.