New legislation moving through the Missouri General Assembly could finally impose a universal ban on texting while driving.
Four bills presented in the House would prohibit all drivers from using their cell phones to text while operating a vehicle. Currently, the practice is only illegal for drivers under the age of 21.
An overwhelming majority of states — 48 and the District of Columbia — ban texting and driving, with 21 states completely prohibiting the use of hand-held devices.
Missouri State Highway Patrol Sgt. Jake Angle said driving always requires your full attention.
“Compound it with how many deer we see in Northwest Missouri, farm equipment and all of the other things going on on the road, and then people choose to pull out their phone and they’re driving down the road trying to look at their phone,” said Angle. “It’s just a recipe for disaster.”
Angle said it takes the average motorist 4.6 seconds to read a text, which he equates to driving the length of a football field — at 55 miles per hour — without looking up at the road.
“We need people to take the time to put that phone away and get to where you’re going,” he said. “If it’s that important, pull off the road, but don’t try to do both at once because any time you’re trying to do two things at once, something suffers. Research shows it’s peoples driving that suffers and it’s a dangerous situation.”
Angle said it’s not always easy to determine if a driver involved in an accident was on a phone, but he has no doubt the advent of hand-held has lead to more wrecks.
“We know that distracted driving, especially due to cell phones, leads to a large amount of traffic crashes,” he said. “It’s a really big contributing factor when we start breaking down traffic crashes.”