HANNIBAL, Mo. -- The Missouri Department of Transportation's Buckle Up Phone Down campaign continues to grow with the message for all motorists to buckle up and put their phones down -- more than 12,000 individuals and businesses have taken the pledge, and the campaign is reaching more Missourians than ever through social media outlets and yearly challenges in the area and across the Show-Me State.
MoDOT Communications Manager Marisa Ellison said the first Buckle Up Phone Down Challenge Day was launched in 2017, and the BUPD campaign provides methods for people to pledge to be a safe driver, spread the message with friends, family and coworkers and save lives caused by crashes involving distractions like cell phones. Cell phone use can increase the risk of a crash by 50 percent, and sending or reading a text while driving 55 mph is equivalent to driving across a football field while blindfolded. The BUPD program and related initiatives aim to save lives and encourage safe behavior -- 876 people died on Missouri roadways as of Dec. 31, and 64% of them were not wearing a seatbelt.
Ellison said social media has been a great way to share the message and become actively involved in the safety efforts by following links to take the BUPD pledge. MoDOT's website and the Missouri Coalition for Roadway Safety's website are filled with videos from businesses, groups of students and athletic teams talking about the BUPD campaign and challenging others to take the pledge.
"Whether it be Facebook or Twitter or Instagram, we are always out there trying to keep that top-of-mind, because it is a safety issue," Ellison said.
The blue and orange cups spelling "BUPD" at the Hannibal School District's Transportation Museum were set up to mark the third Buckle Up Phone Down Challenge Day on Tuesday, Oct. 29.
"We encouraged high schools to get a BUPD kit, and it included those cups and instructions that they could put on a chain link fence near their property," Ellison said.
Hannibal High School cheerleaders also set up a BUPD cup display on the fence at Porter Stadium, joining members of other Missouri communities to create visual reminders to always buckle up and put the cell phone down when driving. Several businesses along McMasters Avenue displayed the Buckle Up Phone Down message as well. MoDOT also has free yard signs and BUPD stencils available for people to paint the logo on parking lots or driveways.
"It's a very exciting program because it really focuses on two of the major issues that we have that could actually reduce fatalities in Missouri -- if people would just wear their seat belt and just put their phone down," Ellison said.
Ellison said the BUPD campaign is one of many programs that combine to cover multiple aspects of being a safe driver -- and it begins when passengers are just setting out on their first rides. MoDOT is offering the Child Passenger Safety Technician course in March, which will teach attendees how to become certified as a CPS Technician and learn how to correctly install the proper car seat.
"That's another opportunity for us to share those resources, and get those resources out in the community so that they can make sure people are buckling up their children," Ellison said, mentioning an opportunity geared toward beginning drivers.
The First Impact course provides information for parents about rules and enforcement that go along with each tier of Missouri's Graduated Driver's License: Instruction Permit, Intermediate License and Under-21 Full Driver License, available to drivers when they are 15, 16 and 18 years old, respectively.
Ellison said MoDOT representatives will be at the CHART Teen Task Force Teen Health Fair on Saturday, Feb. 1, at the Admiral Coontz Recreation Center, and she encouraged everyone who attends -- especially high school students -- to take the BUPD pledge during the event. Ellison said the two key components of safe driving -- avoiding distractions and buckling up for every trip -- "could actually change lives in Missouri."
"We will continue to focus on it, we will continue to encourage people to not only take the pledge -- but adhere to the pledge -- to wear their seat belt all the time and put their phone down while driving," Ellison said.
More information about the BUPD campaign and other programs, visit www.modot.org or www.savemolives.com