Texting and driving has become an unbreakable habit for many drivers in America. According to an April 2017 study from Zendrive, a mobile driver analytics tracker, drivers use their phones during 88 percent of trips in their car. But just because almost everyone does it, doesn’t mean it’s safe. In 2015, 3,477 people were killed in accidents involving distracted drivers, and another 391,000 were injured, according to a study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Certain states are especially affected by the texting and driving problem, and Missouri is one of them. Here’s everything you need to know about texting and driving in Missouri.
1. Missouri is one of three states that doesn’t have a complete ban on texting and driving.
In Missouri, anyone who is 21 or older can text and drive without fear of being pulled over. This law came into existence in 2009, after a bill that explicitly banned texting and driving was introduced. That bill was amended to apply only to those under 21 because of fears of a loss of personal liberty and because of the argument that texting and driving was already banned, although not explicitly, by the distracted driving statute that was on the books. However, Missouri’s courts have interpreted the ban on those under 21 as an allowance for those over 21. Arizona and Montana also have no restriction on texting and driving.
2. Sen. Bob Dixon introduced legislation to ban texting and driving this month.
The bill Dixon proposed would repeal the ban placed on drivers under 21 and add language explicitly banning texting and driving to the existing distracted driving statute. Dixon cited a wrongful death case in Missouri as evidence the law needs to change. A man was killed in an accident with a driver over 21 who was texting, but the texting driver wasn’t held liable because only those under 21 are explicitly banned from texting and driving. “My proposal is a more concise way to do it, it’s a more conservative way to do it, and it’s more just, because it applies to everyone who drives,” Dixon says. Dixon expects the bill to be voted out of committee next week.
3. Missouri ranks 43rd in distracted driving.
Zendrive’s study tracked 3 million drivers across America for three months to learn everything they could about distracted driving. They found that drivers spend about 3.5 minutes per hour driving while using their phone, taking your eyes off the road for two seconds makes it 20 times more likely that you'll crash, and Missourians are some of the most distracted drivers in America. They formulated their list by tracking which state’s drivers spent the highest percentage of time on their phones. Missourians ranked 43rd out of the 50 states, but surprisingly, Montana and Arizona — the other two states without total bans on texting and driving — ranked 5th and 12th. This can be explained by the higher concentration of distracted driving that occurs in the Missouri region. “You can infer there are regional practices that lead to these trends,” says Noah Budnick, director of Public Policy & Government Affairs for Zendrive.
4. Columbia has already banned texting and driving.
In December, as a part of the Columbia’s Vision Zero plan, the City Council amended its ordinance on “careful and prudent driving” to include a ban on all types of distracted driving, including texting and driving. “I think the legislators should get credit for not limiting themselves and drawing attention to the issue at heart, which is that when you’re behind the wheel, you should pay attention,” Budnick says. However, you still can’t be pulled over for distracted driving in Columbia. To be pulled over you still have to exhibit careless driving like swerving in and out of lanes, says Heather Cole, program manager at Vision Zero. Once someone is pulled over, any distracted driving behaviors can be noted on the ticket and can lead to increased fines.