It's estimated that more than 1 trillion texts were sent worldwide last year. As of today, Missouri is the 23rd state to ban the use of texting while driving. The new Missouri law going into effect today prohibits drivers of 21 years of age or younger from sending, reading or writing electronic messages while driving.
The law, sponsored by Sen. Ryan McKenna, reads:
"Any person 21 years of age or younger who operates a moving motor vehicle while sending, reading, or writing a text or electronic message by means of a hand-held electronic wireless communications device will be guilty of an infraction.
Missouri is only the ninth state, however, to single out a particular age group. The consequences of violating the new law by texting and driving is a fine of $200 and two points against the young driver's license.
While the law is obviously well-intentioned, some drivers say the new law is unfair. Some believe that the Missouri legislature is silly to ban texting while driving only for drivers under the age of 21 because if you accept the need for this law it is difficult to understand why it should only apply to those under 21. Obviously, nothing happens upon a person's 21st birthday that suddenly makes texting while driving acceptable and safe.
Representative Scott Lipke, R-Jackson, sponsored the House bill that included the provision to ban texting by young drivers, but he said he is worried the new law will be difficult to enforce, stating, "If you're a law enforcement officer sitting on the side of the road and you see somebody come by and they've got their hands on their phone, how does that officer know whether or not you're dialing a phone number or texting?" Being able to spot texting from afar is not the only challenge facing law enforcement officials. Patrol officers will also need to identify drivers who may be texting as 21 or under.
The new law will apply only to those drivers between 16 and 21 based in part on studies such as that in 2007 that showed that this age group experienced more crashes than any other. Representative Lipke suggests that expanding the illegality of texting to include drivers of all ages, not just those within the highest-risk age group based upon the rationale that "Anyone that texts and drives is putting themselves and others at risk."
Some have observed that there are already laws on the books, such as careless driving laws that would include lane weaving, that make texting while driving law unnecessary.
Aside from the advisability of the new Missouri driving while texting law, it is undoubtedly the case that texting while driving is highly inadvisable from a safety standpoint. From a civil liability standpoint, both texting while driving and using a cell phone while driving are dangerous. Nowadays, it is routine to subpoena the cell phone records of defendant drivers to confirm or deny if the defendant driver responsible for causing a motor vehicle accident was talking or texting at the time of the collision.
Texting while driving has reached epidemic proportions and is resulting in an epidemic of catastrophic injuries due to motor vehicle collisions, more so in the youth population but occurring at significant amounts in the rest of the population as well. As such, the texting while driving ban is a good development for the safety and welfare of all Missourians.
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