Boonville High School senior Jaylen Butner shared his experience of seat belt safety alongside mayors from across Missouri in Jefferson City on Wed. Feb., 14 as part of a press conference in support of the Missouri Department of Transportation's Buckle Up/Phone Down campaign.
“It’s quite an experience and it’s very special to me to be asked to be part of the press conference. It’s very out of norm for a kid my age so it’s been a highlight of my life,” said Butner.
Butner was severely injured in a 2015 head-on collision involving the car he was a passenger in and a truck as he and a friend traveled home from a morning football practice. After a long-term hospitalization and rehabilitation, Butner returned to BHS and the football team. He was asked to join the press conference via email by Kelly Jackson, a Senior Communications Specialist for MoDOT and quickly accepted the invitation.
“I feel like I’m really involved now but it’s not a big deal to me. It’s bigger than I thought it was though,” explained Butner, “ When I saw the email my eyes lit up and I wanted to tell the first person I saw.”
Butner contributed in the press conference as he shared the stage with Jefferson City Mayor Carrie Tergin, Kansas City Mayor Sly James, Springfield Mayor Ken McClure and Florissant Mayor Tom Schneider among others. The press conference followed the Missouri Municipal League’s annual legislative conference.
“When we did the press conference we wanted to make sure we had a victim there and we contacted Jaylen and he was kind enough to come and tell his story so we could get it out again and explain the importance of buckling up and how it saved his life,” explained Jackson.
It was not the first time MoDOT has utilized Butner’s story to endorse safe, undistracted driving habits and the importance of wearing a seatbelt. On Tue., Feb. 6, MoDOT released a 30-second public service announcement for the Buckle Up/Phone Down campaign featuring Butner.
“We put out a call to the Missouri Coalition for Roadway Safety to get names or see if they had one recently in a crash willing to share their story,” explained Jackson regarding how Butner was selected for the PSA and the press conference.
The PSA was filmed at Boonville High School and is prominently featured on the MoDOT-sponsored website for the campaign and emphasized how wearing a seat belt saved Butner’s life. The video is one of seven produced for MoDOT and the Buckle Up/Phone Down campaign featuring crash victims, their families, law enforcement officers and medical personnel.
“We’re trying to educate on all the different things sometimes a lot of people don’t think about are the consequences and even the effects they may have after that crash.” said Jackson.
The Buckle Up/Phone Down campaign asks drivers to “Do Your Part to Make Missouri Roads Safer!” The campaign also sponsors a challenge to both individual drivers and partnering organizations to do as the name states with the endorsements of seat belt safety survivors the likes of Butner.  
“I wake up everyday and I’m grateful for my life whether the day brings good times or bad. They’re all good times to me just being alive,” added Butner.
All information on the Buckle Up/Phone Down campaign and video including Butner are available at