More than 10,000 individuals have accepted the Buckle Up Phone Down Challenge according to the Missouri Department of Transportation and Missouri Coalition for Roadway Safety. The milestone announcement follows quickly on the heels of the successful Missouri Highway Safety and Traffic Blueprint Conference held in Columbia September 9-11.

The Buckle Up-Phone Down campaign was created in 2017 to address the two most impactful actions a driver can take to prevent crashes – or survive if one occurs.

“Distracted driving is a major cause of crashes, not only in Missouri but in the entire United States,” said Jon Nelson, chair of the Missouri Coalition for Roadway Safety. “Drivers using cellphones in Missouri were involved in 2,580 crashes in 2017 alone.”

Sometimes even the most attentive drivers are involved in a crash caused by other drivers. That’s when wearing a seat belt every time you get in a vehicle becomes the best defense against injury and death.

In 2018, there were 391 known unbelted fatalities in Missouri traffic crashes. “More than 1,000 other individuals were involved in these same crashes and survived at a much higher rate – 77% compared to 38% for those who were unbuckled,” Nelson said.

Nelson said that while it is impossible to know for sure if a seat belt would have saved the lives of every unbuckled individual lost in these crashes, statistically speaking, if all 391 people had been buckled and survived at the same rate, 244 of them would still be alive today.

Missouri currently has no primary safety belt law, meaning law enforcement cannot ticket an individual for being unbuckled unless first stopped for another traffic infraction. And even then, the fine is only $10. In addition, cellphone use while driving is restricted only to those 21 or younger and only for texting.

The Buckle Up Phone Down Challenge is working to get individuals thinking about safety for themselves and everyone in their motor vehicles, as well as getting private industry to openly support employee safety, either through internal safety campaigns or changing policy to ban cellphone use in company vehicles and make seat belts mandatory. The campaign features YouTube videos and Facebook, Twitter and Instagram posts to get the message out. A dedicated website features both individual citizens and employees of participating businesses giving the “thumbs up-thumbs down” sign to show their support of the effort.

“We’d like to make it 20 by 20 – 20,000 pledges by 2020,” said Nicole Hood, state highway safety and traffic engineer. “If you haven’t taken the challenge, you can do so by going to If you’ve already signed up, urge your family, friends – even your employer – to accept the challenge to save lives in Missouri.”

The third annual Buckle Up Phone Down day will be held October 29 at the Stotler Lounge on the campus of the University of Missouri. The event includes a roundtable discussion on distracted driving with a panel of experts to be moderated by National Transportation Safety Board Vice Chairman Bruce Landsberg. Other activities are planned throughout the state.