Placeholder cell phone

Texting and driving is banned for all drivers in 47 states, but Missouri remains off of that list. Republican lawmakers are hoping to change that next year with legislation filed for the upcoming legislative session in Jefferson City.

Unless you are 21 or younger, Missouri does not have any current laws relating to using your cellphone while driving. This age-restrictive partial ban on texting and driving is unlike any other in the country. According to data from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, every state that bans texting and driving does it for all drivers, regardless of age.

For several years, State Rep. Cloria Brown, R-Mehlville, has put forth bills aimed at forcing drivers to put the phone down when behind the wheel.

House Bill 1298 would extend the ban on sending, reading or writing text, or other electronic messages to the entire driving population. Provisions are included in the bill that would permit the use of phones if the driver was equipped with hands-free technology.

Brown also prefiled House Bill 1297, which would completely ban the use of a phone — including placing or receiving phone calls — unless the driver had hands-free capabilities.

House Bill 1302, sponsored by State Rep. Galen Higdon, R-St. Joseph, would prohibit the use of a cellphone for commercial drivers while allowing it for noncommercial drivers provided they were using a hands-free device.

“The leading cause of traffic accidents is inattentive drivers,” Higdon said. “I’m hoping to get us all to pay more attention to the hazards.”

In 2015 alone, the Missouri Highway Patrol reported almost 19,000 accidents statewide were caused by distracted driving. Of those, close to 8,000 contained injuries and 113 of the accidents involved a fatality.

A 2010 poll by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety showed 92 percent of drivers believed it was unacceptable to text or email while driving

Montana and Arizona are the only other states that don’t currently prohibit drivers from sending or receiving messages while operating a vehicle.

Mark Zinn can be reached at mark.zinn@knpn.com. Follow him on Twitter: @KNPNZinn.

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