Missouri bill could add adults to texting and driving ban

MISSOURI (KFVS) - The current texting and driving law in Missouri only prohibits drivers under the age of 21 from handling their phones behind the wheel, but a local lawmaker also wants to make the form of distracted driving illegal for adults.

State Senator Bob Dixon, a Republican from the Springfield area, wrote Senate Bill 903, and read it for the first time in front of the Senate Transportation, Infrastructure and Public Safety Committee on Thursday.

According to the Columbia Missourian, Dixon argued during the hearing that the state's broad distracted driving law is also used by police during traffic crashes that involve texting and driving, and can make enforcement more confusing.

"The court looked at our newfangled law that we passed and said, 'Well, the statute, by virtue of banning texting for those under 21, essentially says it's legal for those over 21,'" Dixon said.

Sergeant Rick Schmidt with the Cape Girardeau Police Department said that they support any law that encourages drivers to keep their attention on the road and not on their phone, but is sure that SB 903 will see some revisions.

"If you're talking about stopping a car immediately for texting and driving, if there was no age limit it would be easier for us to enforce," Sgt. Schmidt said. "Anything anyone can do to pass a lot that we can enforce and we can make a difference by enforcing that law if they give us the right tools to do that we're all for it."

The Fire Chief of Fruitland Area Fire Protection District, Rob Francis, said he has responded to several recent crashes that have involved texting and driving and believes drivers of all ages fall victim to it.

"It's on the upswing," Francis said. "Being in the rural area, we have the animals crossing the road, deer strikes, but the cellphone is becoming more and more common because it has become so much a part of our lives that we depend on it."

Francis also said that a driver who is reading a text for two to three seconds can travel 300 feet without seeing what is in front of them and that has caused crashed on roads in their part of Cape county that often have hills and curves.

"If you're not really watching what you are doing," Francis said. "If you're looking at you at your cell phone, or taking that call without a hands-free device, you can be in a ditch or a tree, and we've seen it happen."

Francis recommends other drivers download safe driving apps. The one he has on his personal phone doesn't allow him to receive phone calls or text when his vehicle is in motion.

"I don't know it happens. I get a message when I get where I'm going," Francis said. "That way I don't have the reaction of 'Oh I gotta take this call.'"

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