JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Gov. Mike Parson has proclaimed Oct. 16 as Buckle Up Phone Down Day in Missouri and fellow Missourian and former race car driver Carl Edwards is lending his famous name to the cause, all in an effort to encourage Missourians to take two simple actions to save lives on the state’s highways – fasten their seatbelts and put their phones down while driving.
As part of the promotion, Missourians are invited to join in a virtual BUPD Day kickoff event that will launch at 9 a.m. on Oct. 16 on MoDOT’s Facebook page – www.facebook.com/MoDOTStatewide. In addition to Parson and Edwards, participants include Missouri Department of Transportation Director Patrick McKenna, Missouri State Highway Patrol Col. Eric Olson and AAA Public Affairs Specialist Nick Chabarria.
They will be joined by two crash survivors from ThinkFirst Missouri – Chad Kitzman and Chad Burton – who will provide their personal perspective on the perils of texting while driving and riding in a vehicle without a seatbelt.
Other supporters include Jefferson City Mayor Carrie Tergin, students from State Technical College of Missouri and officials with the State of Kentucky, which has adopted the BUPD initiative.
“This year more than ever, the BUPD message is vitally important as we’ve seen an uptick in MoDOT vehicles being hit and an increase in fatalities on Missouri highways,” said MoDOT Director Patrick McKenna. “I ask all Missourians to take the BUPD challenge at modot.org or buckleupphonedown.com and pledge to support the two easiest and most effective ways to stay safe on Missouri highways – buckling up and putting the phone down.”
This is the fourth year MoDOT and the Missouri Coalition for Roadway Safety, along with safety partners throughout the state, will mark Buckle Up Phone Down Day with events and activities designed to encourage drivers to buckle up and avoid cell phone use.
Nicole Hood, MoDOT’s Highway Safety and Traffic Engineer, likened the goal of BUPD Day to that of the Great American Smokeout, which encourages smokers to give up cigarettes on the third Thursday in November.
“Our objective is to get people to buckle up and put their phones down just for the day, and then turn that day into a week, a month, a year until those activities become routine,” said Hood. “Then we encourage those folks to challenge their employers, families and friends to do the same.”
She added: “We’ve seen this grassroots effort steadily spread throughout Missouri, as well as to other states, and we want to keep that momentum going so we can save lives on our highways.”
Two other states besides Kentucky – Nebraska and Wisconsin – have adopted the BUPD program, and eight states have expressed an interest in using the BUPD message and logo.
To help continue the initiative’s momentum, MoDOT has created a BUPD Starter Kit that provides all the tools necessary for other entities interested in implementing the life-saving venture. The kit, along with more information about the BUPD effort, can be found at www.buckleupphonedown.com.
Since the program began in 2017, more than 13,000 individuals and businesses have accepted the BUPD challenge to always wear their seat belts and put their phones down while driving.