The Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) and the Missouri Coalition for Roadway Safety are challenging Missouri businesses and private individuals to buckle up and put their phones down.

The Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) and the Missouri Coalition for Roadway Safety are challenging Missouri businesses and private individuals to buckle up and put their phones down.

The Buckle Up - Phone Down campaign is tackling the two most impactful actions a driver can take to prevent crashes — or survive if one occurs.

First, drivers can put their phones down when they slide behind the wheel. Distracted driving is the number-one cause of crashes, not only in Missouri, but in the entire United States. The Missouri State Highway Patrol reports that cell phones were involved in 2,237 crashes in 2015 alone.

Next, people can buckle up each and every time they get in a vehicle. Of the 938 people killed on Missouri's roadways last year, 684 were drivers and passengers of vehicles subject to Missouri's current safety belt law. A tragic 62 percent of them were unrestrained.

The hope is to get private industry to openly support employee safety, either through internal safety campaigns or actually changing policy banning cellphone use in company vehicles and making safety belts mandatory.

“MoDOT has already taken both these steps,” said MoDOT Chief Engineer Ed Hassinger. “We’ve had the mandatory safety belt policy in place for years and have now banned all cellphone use, including voice, while operating a MoDOT vehicle.”

Statistics show that these two policy changes could have an impact on both incidents and highway fatalities.

“You are 23 times more likely to be in a critical incident when the driver is texting and driving,” said Highway Safety Director Bill Whitfield. “And only eight states scored lower than Missouri on voluntary safety belt use.”

The Buckle Up/Phone Down Challenge is trying to change these numbers. Videos, social media posts and a dedicated website will feature citizens and employees of participating businesses giving the “thumbs up/thumbs down” sign to show their support of the effort.

The website is located at www.modot.org/BuckleUpPhoneDown and will also feature the Wall of Fame, where participating businesses and agencies can display their logos to show their support.