Distracted driving has been a growing problem in the decades since the popularity explosion of the iPhone and society’s growing dependence on electronic devices. While most people surveyed believe they can safely read and answer a text while driving, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration calls texting “an alarming distraction,” and demonstrates that at 55mph, a car travels the length of a football field in 5 seconds—the average amount of time it takes to read or answer a short text.
Recently, the Missouri state legislature passed Senate Bill 398, including a ban on texting while driving. Similar bans in other states show an average decrease in distracted driving accidents of about 7%. Under this legislation, violators could receive significant fines. Those found liable for causing a fatal accident could also face criminal charges.
Can I Be Pulled Over for Texting and Driving in Missouri?
While Missouri has implemented bans on texting and driving in Missouri, currently, law enforcement considers this a secondary offense. Under the ban, police officers may penalize a driver for texting and driving only as a secondary offense. They cannot pull over a driver who appears to be texting unless the driver is also speeding, driving erratically, disobeying traffic signals, or committing any other driving offense. This makes the law prohibiting distracted driving in Missouri more measured than in states that ban texting and driving as a primary offense.
Liability in Texting and Driving
Not only will Missouri soon impose significant financial penalties for distracted drivers, but texting while driving leaves the driver liable for damages in the event of an accident. An accident with a fatality could result in both felony charges and a wrongful death lawsuit. Proving liability in a distracted driving claim requires demonstrating the following:
- That the driver owed a reasonable duty of care to others on the road to prevent injuries by avoiding distractions
- That they breached this duty of care through an act of negligence
- That the negligent breach of duty directly caused the injury
- That the injury victim suffered significant damages due to the car accident
Damages an accident victim could recover in a distracted driving claim could include property damages, medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and compensation for pain and suffering. Typically, the liable party’s auto insurance would pay out on a distracted driving accident claim.
What Else is Distracted Driving in Missouri?
Texting while driving is the main target of the state’s ban on distracted driving. However, other distractions while driving—both on and off the cell phone—also cause accidents in significant numbers, including the following:
- Setting a GPS
- Choosing playlists or podcasts
- Scrolling through social media or reading/answering emails
- Attending to children in the backseat
Missouri’s new bill allows drivers to use hands-free technology while driving but prohibits holding a cell phone. According to the legislation, motorists may use their cell phones while at a stop light or when stopped in traffic, but not in a moving vehicle unless they utilize hands-free technology.
When Does The Ban on Texting and Driving in Missouri Begin?
Missouri’s ban on texting and driving begins in 2025. Law enforcement considers the time until the ban goes into effect as an important period of education for Missouri motorists.