Missouri’s law against texting and driving is drawing controversy. Unlike the law in most other states, Missouri’s texting and driving statute does not cover other uses of a cell phone in the car, and only applies to people under the age of 21 and to commercial drivers. As a result, the law is nearly impossible to enforce, and does very little to reduce the number of car accidents in the state.
Missouri’s Texting and Driving Law
Missouri passed its law against texting and driving in 2009, in House Bill 62. This bill created Missouri Statute 304.820, which went into effect on August 28, 2009, and banned drivers under the age of 21 from sending, reading, or writing a text message or other electronic message using a “hand-held electronic wireless communications device,” like a cell phone.
The “electronic messages” under the law focus on text messages. However, they also include emails and instant messages, as well.
However, the law explicitly allows drivers to make phone calls on their cell phone while driving, as well as inputting a phone number to make the call.
The law was slightly amended in 2013 by House Bill 103, which banned the use of cell phones by commercial drivers while behind the wheel. This addition went into effect on August 28, 2013.
Violations lead to a traffic ticket that carry a fine of $200 and add two points to the driver’s record.
Singling Out Young Drivers Does Little to Prevent Car Accidents
The impetus for the bill was arguably a 2007 report by the Missouri Department of Transportation that found that drivers between the ages of 16 and 21 were in more car accidents than any other age group. These drivers are in nearly three times the number of fatal accidents per mile driven than drivers over the age of 20.
However, while texting and driving is one factor driving that statistic, it is far from the only one. Additionally, texting and driving is dangerous to do, no matter how old you are. Banning texting and driving for young drivers while still allowing older ones to do it does little to reduce the number of car accidents that happen in Missouri.
Enforcement is Nearly Impossible
To make matters worse, the limitations on Missouri’s law makes enforcing it nearly impossible. Police officers who see a driver using their cell phone have very little way of knowing whether the driver is texting, which is illegal, or making a phone call or dialing a number, which is fine. They also have to decide whether the driver is 21 or older, based on what the driver looks like as he or she drives by.
With so much uncertainty and the awkwardness of pulling someone over only to find that they were either not texting or are old enough to do it legally, many police officers simply do not enforce the law.
Car Accident Lawyers at the Smith Law Office
The personal injury attorneys at the Smith Law Office strive to legally represent victims in car accidents who have been hurt by someone who was texting and driving. Even if texting is legal, it is still negligent and the distracted driver can still be held liable for the victim’s losses. Call our law firm at (816) 875-9373 or contact us online for help in St. Joseph, Kansas City, Springfield, or the rest of western Missouri.