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UAB study finds shows' road rules not reality

BIRMINGHAM (AP) — Prime-time television actors don't buckle up or use motorcycle helmets nearly as often as people do in real life, according to researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

Researchers studied 79 prime-time television programs on ABC, NBC, CBS and FOX over a four-week period for the study that was published in the journal Injury Sciences. The study found that characters used seat belts 62 percent of the time, motorcycle helmets 47 percent of the time and bike helmets 9 percent of the time.

Gerald McGwin, associate director for research at the UAB Center for Injury Sciences and lead author of the article, said that's not exactly reality-based television.

Americans use seat belts 80 percent of the time, motorcycle helmets 60 percent of the time and bike helmets 40 percent of the time, according to national studies.

McGwin said the lack of transportation safety was consistent across all four networks.

"The police shows ... were notoriously bad for seat belt use," she said.

"I think there's sort of a sense of responsibility that needs to take place here, in terms of mirroring versus promoting these types of behaviors."

Researchers also studied 21,670 television commercials that aired during the same period and found they overstated the safety measures people take with ground transportation. They showed people using seat belts 86 percent of the time, motorcycle helmets always and bike helmets 84 percent of the time.

The study was conducted as a summer project that included two medical students, Alison Reiland and Stephen Tanner, who spent the first day alone in separate conference rooms watching shows such as "Dancing With the Stars" and "Without a Trace."

McGwin said watching TV all day "is not as glamorous as it sounds."

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Information from: The Birmingham News

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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