The Pettis County Health Center is inviting all area residents to join the Buckle Up/Phone Down challenge this Friday.

A press release from the Pettis County Health Center says the number of traffic fatalities increased in Missouri between 2015 and 2016. The rate of seatbelt use in Missouri is 81.4% overall, but decreases to 70.4% for Missouri Teens.

The national rate for seatbelt usage is 90.1%, but Missouri ranks 41st out of 50 states in terms of seatbelt use. The stats indicate that of 648 Missourians killed in traffic accidents last year, 62% were not wearing seat belts.

For teens, 78% of the 53 young people killed were unbuckled, and for the 20-25 year age group, 72% of the 54 fatalities were unbuckled.

The Pettis County Health Center says based on the latest statistics, cellphones contributed to 2,242 crashes in Missouri in 2015. That was a 17% increase compared to previous years. There were 14 fatalities, 77 serious injuries, and 950 minor injuries from crashes where texting was involved.

According to AAA, texting increases the risk of a car crash by 50%. The press release says an individual is 23 times more likely to be involved in a critical incident when a driver is texting.

The Pettis County Health Center and MoDOT say that parents need to set a good example for their children by always wearing a seat belt and making sure all passengers are properly restrained.

For more information, call the Pettis County Health Center at 660-827-1130 or visit pettiscountyhealthcenter.com.

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