Distracted driving, specifically texting while driving, has been a large part of political discourse for the last several years, picking up steam following a rise in related personal injuries and deaths.
Research completed by Caird et al. has shown that an estimated 135,300 drivers are manipulating a handheld device at any given time in the United States. Further, drivers are 23 times more likely to crash while texting. For those driving commercially, texting while driving a truck increases the odds of being involved in a crash, near miss, or incident. From 2002 to 2007, an estimated 16,141 fatalities were related to texting while driving.
It is clear that texting while driving is dangerous, but we must look to the law to see what our elected leaders have codified at the state level on this crucial issue to understand what recourse injured parties and their families may have following an accident.
Texting and Driving in Missouri
Currently, Missouri is one of only two states without a law banning texting and driving for all drivers. RSMO 304.820 states that any driver aged 21 or younger shall not operate a motor vehicle and manipulate a handheld electronic device. This means that for drivers 22-years-old and older, texting and driving is not an illegal offense unless the driver has a CDL or commercial diver’s license. However, if a driver 21-years-old or younger is found to be texting and driving, they may incur a fine of $200 and two points against their driver’s license.
A review of data from the Missouri Department of Transportation shows that 70% of drivers using cell phones in Missouri traffic crashes are 22 years old or older. From data compiled by Save MO Lives, there were 82 people killed in distracted driving crashes in 2020. Save MO Lives, an organization seeking to raise awareness of distracted driving and the high risk of fatal accidents, has worked to compile data for all cities in Missouri to show the statistics of fatal distracted driving accidents from 2016 to 2020.
St. Louis, Missouri
In St. Louis, eleven fatalities have occurred due to distracted driving from 2016 to 2020. St. Louis County’s distracted driving crash rate was 18.6 per 1,000 residents. There are currently no local ordinances that are stricter than RSMO 304.820; therefore, it is not illegal to use a cell phone while driving if over 21 years old.
Kansas City, Missouri
Kansas City has similar statistics as St. Louis regarding fatal distracted driving accidents, with eleven being tracked from 2016 to 2020. In a review of Kansas City-specific data compiled by The Kansas City Regional Safety Blueprint, between 2013 and 2017, distracted driving accounted for 16% of accidents, with 163 fatalities and 1,048 serious injuries. There are no local ordinances in Kansas City that are stricter than RSMO 304.820; therefore, it is not illegal to use a cell phone while driving if over 21 years old.
In Springfield, Save MO Lives has tracked five fatal distracted driving accidents from 2016 to 2020. The majority of these accidents were caused by distracted drivers in the 20 to 29-year-old age range. There are no local ordinances that are stricter than RSMO 304.820. Due to this, it is not illegal to use a cell phone while driving if over 21 years old.
In Columbia, there have only been three fatal crashes involving distracted drivers from 2016 to 2020. In December 2017, the Columbia City Council unanimously amended the city code to ban distracted driving, including the use of cell phones, for all drivers. While this would not be enforced alone, meaning drivers would not be pulled over for using a cell phone, it is an enhancer if a driver is pulled over for another violation and are found to have driven distracted. This amendment is stricter than RSMO 304.820, and the data supports its language – with distracted driving illegal for drivers, fewer fatal distracted driving-related crashes exist.
Distracted driving has taken the lives of thousands of Missourians and all of these deaths were preventable. However, holding distracted drivers accountable does not stop at the legislature or law enforcement – when drivers are injured due to another’s negligence, including distracted driving, the personal injury attorneys at The Simon Law Firm, P.C. work to fairly compensate the injured parties. Distracted driving is negligent driving, and accidents resulting from this are unacceptable. If you or a loved one is a victim of a distracted driving-related accident, contact The Simon Law Firm today for a free, confidential consultation. The Simon Law Firm proudly works for justice on behalf of those injured by distracted drivers.