Missouri is currently one of only two states which permits citizens over 21 years of age to text while driving – an issue that has become unfortunately pertinent as Missouri faces an increasing number of deaths in traffic accidents. According to the Missouri Department of Transportation, over two thousand crashes in 2021 involved a driver distracted by their cell phone. Hopefully, legislation that has been proposed in Missouri will someday become law and reduce the number of accidents our state faces each year.
Bills that have been proposed in Missouri seek to bring Missouri law in line with that of most other states, by creating an outright ban on cellphone usage while operating a vehicle. Current law makes cell phone usage while driving illegal only for drivers who are 21 years old or younger – despite evidence demonstrating that older drivers are generally worse at texting while driving. Regardless, the practice has time and time again been found to be unreasonably dangerous, not to mention unnecessary. The same study cites that no lane excursions were observed when drivers were not using a phone while driving, while 66% of the drivers experienced at least one lane excursion while texting and driving.
As such, the current state of Missouri law seems disjointed – texting while driving is dangerous regardless of age, and allowing drivers over the age of 21 to use their phones while driving results in the same harm. Several different proposals bring to the table new restrictions that would be just as effective as other states’ laws restricting texting while driving. Under one proposal, a ban would be placed on any electronic wireless communication device that is not hands-free, similar to legislation found in almost half of other U.S. states. Drivers would still be permitted to use hands-free devices such as Bluetooth earpieces, and there are exceptions for those whose occupation requires them to operate communication devices while operating a vehicle, such as truck drivers or emergency responders.
No matter what the law is, no one should drive while using a cell phone unless it is hands free and allows you to keep your eyes on the road while in use.