Leo Burnett’s 1985 campaign for the US Department of Transportation sparked national awareness for seatbelt safety using Vince and Larry, two (kind of creepy) crash dummies with a tendency to explode when subjected to high-impact car crashes. Today, the Smithsonian announced Vince and Larry would join the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.
Through laughing at the “dummies,” 1980s folks realized that seatbelts were in fact an important part of vehicle safety, and back then Vince and Larry’s silly antics were evidently a more effective way of encouraging seatbelt use than threatening motorists with expensive tickets for ignoring highway safety. The crash dummies became a pop culture phenomenon, spawning exploding toys, video games, and a pretty terrible band.
Yes, the crash dummies were truly part of a simpler time when a high level of creativity went into PSAs, and the American people learned from them as opposed to just making fun of them. Peter Liebhold, chair of the division of work and industry at the Smithsonian put it simply when he said, “The crash test in an important moment in American history.” Just as the people saved by the crash dummies, Vince and Larry’s legacy will live on.