Currently, 41 states ban texting for all drivers. Missouri, however, is not among them. Some state lawmakers are trying to change this. A series of bills currently being considered by the Missouri House would, if passed into law, prohibit all motorists in the Show Me State from texting behind the wheel.
According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, 3,328 motorists were killed and an estimated 421,000 motorists were injured in distraction-affected car accidents in 2012, the most recent year for which full data is available. Of course, texting is not the only distraction that can increase a driver’s odds of causing a wreck; fiddling with the radio, eating and drinking, applying makeup, and diverting attention to children or pets are just a few other examples. But, texting is one of the most dangerous forms of distraction, because it occupies the mind, hands and eyes all at the same time. Currently, Missouri prohibits novice drivers – those under the age of 21 – from sending or viewing text messages. Texting is an infraction for novice drivers, and the fine is $20.50. Three democrats in the Missouri House of Representatives have proposed 2014 legislation that would expand the texting ban to cover all drivers. Lawmakers in support of the texting ban brought their arguments to a panel in the Missouri House this February, where the committee chairman did not appear convinced, citing problems with enforcing the ban and a concern that many drivers would choose to ignore it. But, supporters maintained that enacting a texting ban for drivers, even if largely a symbolic action, would be a step in the right direction. “We were all victims, at one time, of not wanting [seat belt laws] and rebelling against wearing seatbelts,” Representative Keith English, the sponsor of one of the anti-texting bills, told The Springfield News-Leader. “I was one of those and now it just becomes a habit and I think it’s time that we do something to stop at least one death if not 3,000 next year.” Comments from the Missouri Highway Patrol superintendent echoed concerns about enforcement, but indicated hope that a ban would cause at least some drivers to put away their mobile devices.
It remains to be seen whether any of the measures against texting while driving will pass this year in Missouri. Yet, even if the bills do not become law, safety on the road is the responsibility of all drivers. In the event of a texting-and-driving accident, the responsible driver or his or her insurer can be held accountable for resulting damages through the civil court process. If you have been injured by a distracted driver, or if you have lost a family member to distracted driving, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. Get in touch with a Missouri distracted driving lawyer today to explore your legal options.