Five pre-filed bills for upcoming legislative session supplement or strengthen the state’s texting and driving law

Missouri Lawmakers
Target Distracted Driving Dangers

New Traffic Safety Bills

Lawmakers from the Missouri House and Senate pre-filed five new traffic safety bills to address growing concerns around cell phone use while driving. Although the bills offer different approaches to the issue, each bill supplements or strengthens the state’s existing hand-held law, currently one of the weakest in the country. According to recent data from the Missouri Coalition for Roadway Safety, since 2015, an average of 108 people are killed every year in distracted driving-related crashes and over the past five years, cell phone-related crashes in the state have increased by 30%, with nearly 2,500 crashes in 2019.

Missouri’s Current Hand-Held Law

Missouri is currently one of just two states without a cell phone messaging ban for drivers of all ages. As of 2013, Missouri Statute 340.820 bans sending, reading, or writing a text message or electronic message on hand-held mobile devices while operating a motor vehicle for drivers 21 and younger. The consequences of violating the texting and driving law is a fine of $200 and two points against the young driver’s license. However, data shows distracted driving isn’t just a young driver problem. Approximately 70% of drivers using cell phones in Missouri traffic crashes are 22 years of age or older. The current statute does prohibit commercial drivers from using a hand-held communication device, including to send, read, or write a text message or electronic message. A recent incident in Fulton, Mo. is just one example of how the state’s current hand-held law falls short of keeping Missourians safe. Video captured on a school bus carrying students, and shared on social media, shows the bus driver using his cell phone while driving. While the video may be shocking for parents to see, Missouri’s current law allows for this, and the driver was not charged.

New Bills Introduced to
Address Cellphone Use while Driving

After Missouri’s prefiling period opened on December 1st, a number of bipartisan lawmakers from the House and Senate introduced bills that would strengthen Missouri’s texting and driving law. More distracted driving bills are expected to be introduced during the 2022 legislative session.

Bill
Number

Bill
Sponsor

Brief

 Prohibits the use of a hand-held wireless communication device within school zones and construction or work zones

Creates the offense of distracted driving

Enacts provisions relating to the operation of motor vehicles while using electronic devices

Prohibits the use of hand-held electronic wireless communications devices while driving noncommercial and commercial motor vehicles; but allows the use of such devices when used hands-free by operators of noncommercial motor vehicles

Modifies provisions relating to the operation of motor vehicles while using electronic devices

*Information from Missourians for Responsible Transportation