Our Opinion: Safe driving could lead to lifetime habits

Government can sometimes lead us to water, but can't make us drink. The role of government trying to protect us from ourselves is - and should be - limited.

Seat belt usage in Missouri is a secondary law, meaning you cannot be pulled over for violating it. But if you're pulled over for something else, you can be ticketed for not wearing a seat belt. Whether it should be a primary law is an argument for another day. But buckling up and not being distracted by your phone still are important issues.

Statistics clearly show the risk: Six out of 10 people killed in 2016 Missouri traffic crashes were unbuckled. Since 2014, there has been a 20 percent increase in crashes involving cell phones.

One thing government can do is help to educate the public on issues of safety. That's the goal of this Friday's "Buckle Up Phone Down Day." The Missouri Department of Transportation - along with the Missouri Coalition for Roadway Safety - are teaming up to issue a challenge to drivers: When you get into any vehicle, buckle up your safety belt. If you are a driver, put the cellphone down. Turn it off if you have to. Don't text or talk unless you're hands-free.

During the week, the agencies will make special efforts to reach out to businesses and individuals alike. "By buckling up and putting your phone down even for one day you will be doing your part to make Missouri's roads safer. Let's save lives and turn this day into a week, a month, and eventually every trip, every time," said MoDOT Highway Safety and Traffic Engineer Nicole Hood.

We hope this day for driving safety will turn into lifetime habits that will reduce risk for us all.

Take the challenge at www.modot.org/BuckleUpPhoneDown/.

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