Fri. Sep 29th, 2023
Now that the law requires all drivers of any age in Missouri to use hands-free devices…aka cell phones…while behind the wheel of a motor vehicle is in effect, it’s time for a public awareness before actual enforcement begins.
Captain John Hotz, from the highway patrol, says…like it or not…the new law is needed because of cell phones being an evolution of the continuing problem of inattention on our roadways.
“It seems like everybody now wants to be connected all the time. And so it doesn’t take very much driving around to notice people who are talking on their cellphone, sending text, social media, post, you name it. And people are doing it when they’re driving. And unfortunately, that’s creating a lot of issues. We’re seeing a lot of traffic crashes as a result of that.”
The hands-free law is a secondary offense meaning you need to be stopped for something else before you can be hit with it.
Actual enforcement with fines up to, at least, $500 per violation won’t begin until January 1, 2025.
After two years in a row of more than 1,000 fatalities on Missouri’s roadways, Gov. Mike Parson signed the Siddens Bening Hands–Free Law, prohibiting all drivers from using a handheld electronic communication device while driving, effective Monday, Aug. 28.
Distracted driving is a leading cause of crashes in Missouri. Between 2012 and 2021, there were nearly 200,000 distracted driving-related crashes in Missouri, resulting in at least 801 fatalities. Cell phone use is responsible for far more distracted driving crashes than are being reported, according to a recent report from the National Safety Council.
“We’ve seen a troubling and unacceptable trend of distracted driving crashes in recent years, and sadly, more times than not, someone other than the distracted driver was killed,” said MoDOT State Highway Safety and Traffic Engineer Nicole Hood. “We’re thankful the General Assembly and Gov. Parson recognized the need for a hands–free law in Missouri. We’re hopeful this law will change the safety culture around phone use while driving and save lives.”
When the law takes effect Aug. 28, drivers are prohibited from physically holding or supporting a cell phone with any part of their body; manually typing, writing, sending, or reading text-based messages; recording, posting, sending or broadcasting video, including video calls and social media posts; and watching a video or movie.
“The Siddens Bening Hands–Free Law is an important step towards reducing the number and severity of cell phone related distracted driving crashes,” said Captain John Hotz, Director of Public Information and Education for the Missouri State Highway Patrol. “The passage of the law provides law enforcement officers with an additional tool to help stop motorists from being distracted by their cell phones. The Missouri State Highway Patrol will continue to focus on educating the public about the dangers of distracted driving to prevent traffic crashes from occurring.”