Many, many studies have been done that demonstrate the dangerous risks that distracted driving can create. Using your cell phone while driving, for example, can be even more dangerous than being drunk behind the wheel.
This danger is why so many states have outlawed texting and driving. Missouri is actually one of the few states that haven’t made an official law banning the practice. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t different laws and penalties in place to attempt and curb the dangerous practice.
What are the Missouri texting and driving laws? Read on, and we’ll walk you through everything you need to know.
Car Accidents In The State Of Missouri
Even one car accident is too many. But on average, there are almost 1,000 fatal car accidents on Missouri roadways each year. Of these fatalities, many are young people, aged somewhere between 18 and 24. Even those who survive these accidents frequently face life-altering injuries.
Driver impairment or distraction continues to be one of the leading causes of automobile accidents. Of all accidents on Missouri roadways each year, thousands are caused by texting and driving. These sorts of accidents are completely preventable, and yet, so many people are terribly injured as a result of such behavior each year.
When Are Mobile Phones Banned?
As we mentioned previously, Missouri is one of only a few remaining states that has yet to intestate an outright ban on texting when driving. 47 states, including Washington, DC, currently have an all-out ban on the practice that prohibits all drivers from texting and driving while on the road.
In Missouri, the situation is a little bit different. Currently, only teen and novice drivers are officially prohibited from using their phones to text while driving. After the age of 21, there is no penalty for the act.
This is a fairly new law, which went into effect in August of 2013. The law, officially Section 304.820, defines ‘text messaging’ as sending, reading, or writing electronic texts or emails. The only exceptions made to this law involve drivers operating emergency vehicles or using such a device to summon emergency assistance.
These laws apply to all types of cell phones, but do not include devices that were installed as part of a vehicle’s initial design. Drivers who pull over to a stop can send or read text messages in their vehicle, and all verbal and voice-operated technology is still permitted under Missouri law.
There is also no hand-held ban in Missouri. That means outside of texting, all drivers are legally allowed to use their cell phones to make calls while driving. In many states, such as New York, even touching a mobile device while on the road can be enough to be pulled over and written up.
But in Missouri, most drivers are allowed to use their phones as they see fit without taking any actions that are against the law.
Penalties for Texting and Driving in Missouri
Texting and driving is considered a serious danger to one’s self and others. As such, there are a number of penalties in place to deter young people from reaching for their cell phones. If a person under 21 is caught texting and driving, they will face fines, though the fines in Missouri are relatively light.
For example, a first-time offender will likely only need to pay a $20 fine if they are pulled over by an officer for texting and driving. While this fine is relatively low, distracted driving is considered a negligent action. If a person were to get into an accident as a result of their texting and driving, they could be held liable for damages in a court of law.
Further offenses could see fines rise as high as $200. Texting and driving in Missouri is seen as a primary offense. That means an office doesn’t need another reason to pull a driver over in order to charge them with texting and driving penalty.
The Future Of Distracted Driving In Missouri
Missouri’s standing as one of the most lenient texting and driving states could soon change. Recently, a series of bills have been introduced to the state legislature that would move to restrict cell phone use and ban texting for all drivers. In the past, such bills have not made it through the state legislature, but support for such regulations has been growing steadily over the past few years.
There are currently six bills in total in the state legislature that would impact Missouri’s distracted driving laws. These bills vary from an all-out ban on cell phone use to higher restrictions on texting and driving in certain areas and zones.
It’s still too early to say whether Missouri’s distracted driving laws will change this year. But the possibility of a major change is certainly on the horizon. If any of these bills were to pass, Missouri residents could expect to see changes as early as this fall or winter.
Understanding Missouri Texting and Driving Laws
Distracted driving causes so many different accidents each year. Many of these accidents can cause serious injuries or even fatalities. It’s important to understand the Missouri texting and driving laws so that you can look out for yourself and others.
Have you been injured in an automobile accident? If the other driver was driving and texting, you may be able to sue for damages in a court of law. Contact us if you need assistance in putting together your case. We’re here to help.
Adam Krause is a personal injury, mass tort, business litigation, and employment discrimination attorney who practices in Kansas City, Missouri. He graduated from the University of Missouri Kansas City School of Law and has been practicing law for several years now. Adam Krause has made a career of taking complicated litigation and presenting it in the most elementary terms for a jury of your peers to understand. Learn more about his experience here.