JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — A bill that would ban texting while driving in Missouri heads to the governor’s desk after clearing the Senate on Thursday.
Missouri is one of only two US states without a law that prohibits people over 21 from texting while driving. Right now, it is only considered illegal for drivers 21 and under to text and drive.
Senate Bill 56, sponsored by State Sen. Jason Bean (R-District 25), would require hands-free cell phone use for drivers of all ages.
“People didn’t agree with seatbelts when they were mandated years ago. People didn’t initially agree with DUI laws, thinking they could drink and drive,” Nick Chabarria said, a spokesperson with AAA. “This is the next evolution in traffic safety.”
Chabarria said it’s not just that distracted driver who is feeling the consequences.
“In Missouri, 52% of the time it’s somebody other than that distracted driver who is killed in that fatal crash. That means an innocent driver in another vehicle or an innocent pedestrian,” he said.
Penalties would depend on the violations. According to the bill, there would be enhanced penalties for repeat offenders, violations occurring in a work zone when workers are present, violations occurring in a school zone, and violations that are result in property damage, personal injury, or death.
Sgt. Jake Becchina with the Kansas City, Missouri Police Department said there are ways to investigate if a crash was due to cell phone usage.
“There are ways to subpoena cell phone records. All of those things can be investigated as part of our traffic investigations process,” he said.
The bill also allows car dealers to collect sales tax on vehicles before the buyer leaves the car lot. Customers would be required to pay a lump sum before they can take home a car, or the sales tax would be rolled into monthly payments. Other bills had brought forth this concept earlier in the legislative session.
“Whether its illegal or not, people should not be focused on their phone while they’re driving,” Becchina said. “That’s a law of common sense. It doesn’t matter if looks you go from one state to the next, and it’s not a law there.”
If approved by Gov. Mike Parson, the bill would take effect this August.