The House of Representatives will consider extending Missouri’s ban on texting while driving to drivers of all ages in the legislative session that begins January 8.
Missouri law only bans texting while driving for those 21 and younger. House Bill 1290 would extend that ban to all drivers. It would also allow local jurisdictions to enact their own laws and ordinances on the use of hand-held electronic communications devices.
Representative David Evans (R-West Plains) filed HB 1290. He said it simply doesn’t make sense to ban only younger drivers from texting while driving.
“Being one of the older people with grandchildren I can honestly say my grandkids learned to use computers and start texting and typing as young as 2 or 3 whereas I’m still struggling to do so, and it would distract me far more to text and drive than I’m sure it would most 16, 17, 18 year olds today,” said Evans.
Evans said he wanted to propose what would be the “least intrusive” expansion of the texting while driving law. After reviewing past legislation on the matter he chose to offer the same language as 2019’s House Bill 896, filed by Representative Rory Rowland (D-Independence).
“It’s really a safety issue. It’s important to me as a parent, it’s important to me as a grandfather. As a former judge, you see so many of these cases these days of folks that are distracted by driving. One of the most time-consuming and distracting things you can do is look away and type,” said Evans. “It’s an activity we need to regulate in some fashion. I’m not going overboard here but simply saying hey, that extreme activity of texting and driving is something you’ve got to be more careful about and [the bill would] save lives and save accidents.”
The Department of Transportation backs extending the texting while driving ban to all drivers. Nicole Hood, State Highway Safety and Traffic Engineer, said that would make roads safer for drivers and MoDOT workers. The Department reports that since 2014, cell phone-related crashes in Missouri have increased by 31-percent, reaching nearly 2,500 last year.
“We continue to have record numbers of traffic fatalities. For the past three years Missouri alone has had over 900 people that have been killed in traffic crashes and every one of those deaths affects a family and a community,” said Hood. “Distracted driving, it can be a leading cause of some of these crashes, and using those cell phones and texting can definitely be a contributing factor.”
Similar legislation has received little or no attention from the legislature in recent years. Evans said he will talk to House leaders soon in hopes of getting this bill some traction.
“It will save lives and it will save accidents, so I think it’s a good thing and I think leadership will see that,” Evans said.
Violations of Missouri’s texting while driving ban result in two-point violations against a driver’s license. Accumulation of points can result in a license being suspended or revoked.