KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Missouri’s new distracted driving law takes effect next week, and drivers might be surprised to know holding your phone while driving will soon result in a ticket.
Missouri Gov. Mike Parson approved the ban on hands-on phone use while driving, signing the bill in July.
While it obviously covers sending text messages, the new law also includes holding a phone, making calls and reading messages.
The law prohibits drivers from:
- Manually typing, writing, sending or reading text-based messages;
- Recording, posting, sending or broadcasting video, including video calls and social media posts;
- Watching a video or movie;
- Physically holding or supporting a cell phone with any part of their body.
However, hands-free phone use will still be allowed, as well as using phones for navigation, making emergency calls and listening to podcasts or music.
Missouri’s current law only bans texting and driving for those 21 and under, making it one of just two states without a law that prohibits people over 21 from texting while driving. After Missouri’s law goes into effect, only Montana won’t ban texting and driving.
“Even though you may have a vehicle that doesn’t have Bluetooth, your modern smart phone is able to pick up on your voice and allow you to make calls without using your hand,” Burton Kelso said.
The Missouri State Highway Patrol says you can use a single Bluetooth headphone to make and receive hands free calls instead of speaker phone as long as you can still hear car horns and emergency vehicles.
Kelso says for folks who find themselves somewhat addicted to social media it may be a good idea to turn off notifications so you aren’t tempted to see the latest comment.
The law is named the Siddens-Bening Hands Free law in honor of a Raymore father killed on I-49 in 2021 by a distracted driver.
“When we deliver that terrible news of a loved one dying in a crash the number one question is ‘Why?’” How am I to explain the why when someone was Snapchatting or Facetiming or checking their fantasy football status,” Missouri State Highway Patrol Sgt. Andy Bell said.
Although the new law goes into effect Aug. 28, it outlines that penalties won’t start until 2025. Until then, drivers will receive a warning.
But starting in 2025, a first-time violation will result in a fine of up to $150 and can increase up to $500 for multiple violations within two years. After that, additional penalties can occur.
Drivers should know the new texting and driving law is considered a secondary enforcement, like Missouri’s seat belt law. It means law enforcement can only write the citation after pulling a driver over for something else.
The new law also prohibits school bus drivers from using electronic communication devices while loading or unloading passengers, as well as when the bus is in motion.