Sun Prairie High School students joined state officials like Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes last week for the launch of a new safe driving program.
The Wisconsin Department of Transportation on Friday, Oct. 15 debuted the Buckle Up Phone Down campaign, a public awareness effort encouraging drivers to wear their seat belts and avoid phone use in the car.
The campaign kicked off outside Sun Prairie High School, with speeches from Sun Prairie High School student Ean Ackley, Barnes, Wisconsin State Patrol Superintendent Tony Burrell, and other state officials. State 46th Assembly Rep. Gary Hebl and Senator Melissa Agard were also present.
“We’re lucky to have a great drivers ed. program right here on our campus, to help train the next generation of drivers in Sun Prairie. That’s why the school is looking forward to this new opportunity, to partner with the state of Wisconsin on a brand new campaign that encourages safe driving to people of all ages,” Ackley said.
“Being a safe driver starts at the high school level when many people get their license, and the driving habits that you or your friends develop now can stay with you for a lifetime,” Barnes said, addressing the Sun Prairie High School students present. “And these are two that very well may save your lives.”
State leaders are asking that Wisconsin drivers make an effort to wear their seat belts, and put phones away while driving.
“Every trip, every time,” Barnes said.
“The health and safety of people all across the state is our top priority, but unfortunately we know that...we have a problem,” said Barnes.
Barnes said that 593 people died in motor vehicle crashes in Wisconsin in 2020, and 177 of those deaths involved drivers or passengers who were not wearing seat belts.
Also in 2020, distracted driving reportedly caused 9,000 crashes and 31 deaths.
Barnes called those deaths “preventable.”
State Patrol Superintendent Tony Burrell said that drivers often “forget about the terrible destruction that can occur from just a moment of inattention. They too can do two simple things when they get behind the wheel of a vehicle.”
“I’m excited to get my driver’s license in early January. I know that driving comes with a privilege, with a great responsibility on the road,” Ackley said.
“We’re excited to host our state leaders to talk about a topic that’s very important to us here at the high school — driving safely,” he continued.
Wisconsin residents can join the effort, state leaders said, by taking the Buckle Up Phone Down pledge at wisconsindot.gov/BUPD.
Officials at Friday’s press conference were encouraging drivers to share a photo of themselves with a thumbs up/thumbs down on social media, hash-tagged #BuckleUpPhoneDown, to challenge friends and family to take the pledge.