JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — At least six Missouri lawmakers have introduced legislation to crack down on distracted driving.
Missouri is one of only two US states without a law that prohibits people over 21 from texting while driving. Potential avenues to change that seem to have bipartisan backing.
The following Missouri lawmakers have introduced bills intended to combat distracted driving:
- Sen. Jason Bean (R-District 25)
- Sen. Greg Razor (D-District 7)
- Rep. Gretchen Bangert (D-District 70)
- Rep. Lane Roberts (R-District 161)
- Rep. Barry Havis (R-District 146)
- Rep. Ashley Bland Manlove (D-District 26)
Some proposals would prohibit hands-on distractions, like texting, but allow hands-free cell phone use, like Bluetooth or voice-to-text, while behind the wheel. Missouri’s current statue on distracted driving, which took effect in 2013, only restricts drivers 21 years or younger from texting while driving. It also does not approve or reject the concept of hands-free options.
The Missouri Coalition for Roadway Safety reports nearly 200,000 distracted-driving crashes in the state and 800 deaths from such crashes since 2012. Road safety experts say now is the time to take action.
“The Missouri legislature has failed to act on basic traffic safety measures, like distracted driving, and because of that inaction the number of serious injuries and deaths on Missouri roads is rising,” said Angela Nelson, AAA Missouri Vice President of Public Relations and Government Affairs. “Passing a hands-free law for drivers of all ages is a crucial and common-sense way to combat rising traffic fatalities.
One of the more comprehensive bills on distracted driving is Sen. Bean’s SB 56. This legislation would require hands-free cell phone use for drivers of all ages. A first-time violation would mean a $50 fine and two points against the driver’s license. Repeat offenses could lead to enhanced penalties.
“A hands-free law, like Senate Bill 56, will send the right message to Missouri drivers that it’s never safe to manipulate your cell phone while behind the wheel,” said Sen. Jason Bean. “Too often, distracted driving has the same tragic consequences of impaired driving, and our state law should acknowledge and reflect that.”
The Missouri Coalition for Roadway Safety reports that in nearly three of every four distracted-driving crashes over the last five years, the driver at fault was over 21 years old, thus not banned from texting while driving.
“The reality is distracted driving impacts all Missourians, directly or indirectly, whether they have been in a crash or not,” said Nelson.
Among the new proposals, Bean and Razor’s bills have advanced to state Senate committees for review.