Northwest Missourian: State lawmakers plan changes to texting, driving law

Posted: Wednesday, January 20, 2016 4:56 pm

Missouri is one of four states in the country that does not have an all-driver texting ban, but there is a chance that could change.

Three Missouri lawmakers are proposing a new law that would ban all motorists from texting while driving.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports state Sen. Jill Schupp is sponsoring one of the proposals. She said it makes little sense for the ban to apply only to young drivers.

However, Schupp’s legislation would allow texting if motorists use a hands-free voice-activated mode.

Republican state representatives Nate Walker and Cloria Brown have also introduced texting bans that could be debated during thissession.

The Associated Press said previous attempts at similar bans have failed to advance to the full House or Senate.

“It’d be hard to enforce, honestly. I think that there would be a lot of civilian backlash and people shouting how it violates their rights,” junior Jake Hunter said.

According to the American Automobile Association, texting while driving increases the risk of a car crash by 50 percent.

The Missouri State Highway Patrol reported driver inattention was listed as the contributing circumstance in 865 traffic deaths in the state in 2015. Out of those 99 were due to driver inattention including texting, being on a mobile device or anything that diverts attention from the road. Additionally, during this same time period, there were 357 crashes where texting while driving was cited as a contributing cause.

The Missouri Coalition for Roadway Safety said 20 percent of crashes are in result of some sort of distracted driving. Drivers texting typically have their eyes off the road for 4.6 seconds. The state law bans texting for drivers under the age of 21 and drivers of commercial motor vehicles. So far 46 states and the District of Columbia have banned text messaging for all drivers. Missouri and Texas only banned drivers under 21 from texting while Arizona and Montana have no texting ban at all.

Director of the public information education division for the Missouri State Highway Patrol Captain John Hotz said inattention is one of the leading causes of crashes in the state.

“Texting, cell-phone usage, other passengers in the car, the radio station, eating and drinking,” Hotz said. “Those are all types of distractions that we see, so we know if we can eliminate those distractions, then we can eliminate the number of crashes we see that are related to inattention.”

Hotz said driving is a full-time job and any type of distraction is going to significantly increase your chances of being involved in a traffic crash.

“You have to pay attention to weather conditions, driving through construction areas and coming into rush hour traffic,” said Hotz. “Those are all things that you need to see when you are driving, and if you are distracted by any type of device or a person inside the car, then you’re not going to notice those very important things.”

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