Since cellphones became common in the U.S., distracted driving has become a huge public safety problem. Virtually every state government responded by passing an anti-distracted driving law. But some states seem to have taken distracted driving more seriously than others.
One of two states to let most drivers handle their phones
Missouri has one of the most permissive anti-distracted driving statutes in the country. Only drivers operating commercial vehicles like semi trucks and motorists under 21 are prohibited from using their hands to text while driving. The statute specifically says that talking on the phone while driving is not against the law. Montana is the only other state with such a permissive law. Meanwhile, Illinois law bans all handheld electronics use while driving and only allows hands-free technology for drivers aged 19 and above. Many other states have similarly strict laws.
Proposed changes to the distracted driving law
Some Missouri legislators are trying to take more action against the deaths and serious injuries caused by distracted drivers. Several bills introduced in the state Senate and House would ban handheld cellphone use while driving and make it a primary offense, meaning that police would be authorized to pull over a driver they suspect of violating the law. Whether the law will change this year remains to be seen.
With deaths in car accidents at a 15-year high, as reported by AAA of Missouri, it’s clear that more needs to be done. Most victims of distracted drivers and other negligent motorists survive. But a severe crash can cause brain injury, paralysis and other life-altering disabilities. Nobody should have to bear the burden of lost wages, medical bills and diminished quality of life for injuries caused by someone else’s reckless decisions.