OBJECTIVE: To determine the prevalence of transportation related safety behaviors, such as seatbelt and helmet use, in primetime US television programs and commercials. DESIGN: Cross sectional study. SETTING: Top rated television programs and associated commercials from four major US television networks were reviewed for the prevalence of transportation safety related behaviors during a one month period in 2005. Programs were categorized according to the time and network of airing, program type, program rating, and--for commercials--type of product being advertised SUBJECTS: Occupants of automobiles, motorcycles, or bicycles in 507 instances in which a transportation scene was aired. RESULTS: Seatbelt use was depicted in 62% and 86% of individuals in television program and commercial automobile scenes, respectively. The prevalence of motorcycle helmet use was 47% in television programs and 100% in commercials. Bicycle helmets were used in 9% of television programs and 84% of commercials. The frequency of seatbelt use in programs and commercials varied by television rating and genre but did not differ by network, time of airing, or age of character portrayed. CONCLUSIONS: The prevalence of safety related behaviors aired on major US networks during primetime slots is higher than previous reports but still much lower than national averages. Commercials, in contrast, portray transportation safety measures with a frequency that exceeds that of US television programs or most national surveys.