Commentary: Missouri should regulate texting while driving

Commentary: Missouri should regulate texting while driving

2020 has come to an end.  It was a challenging year, we can all agree, but also a year when we realized what is truly important to us-- health, family, and friends. And it was a year when we realized how important outdoor activities like walking, running, bicycling, and hiking are to our physical and mental health.

As the 2021 legislative session gets started, we call for the Missouri General Assembly to pass long-overdue distracted driving and texting-while-driving laws.

Missouri is one of only two states without laws discouraging adult drivers from being distracted by mobile devices while driving. This needs to change.

In 2020, parks, trails, greenways, sidewalks, and roads welcomed a record number of people who headed outside this year to walk, hike, run, ride bikes, push strollers and just get much needed fresh air.  Missouri’s outdoor opportunities offered all residents and visitors a socially distanced way to stay engaged and healthy. The increased interest by the public to get outdoors in their communities brings a spotlight on the need to improve safety on Missouri’s roads for all road users, and on the positive efforts of regional groups all around Missouri who advocate for active living facilities, infrastructure, and safety. 

Organizations like Trailnet in St. Louis, BikeWalkKC, PedNet in Columbia, Ozark Greenways in Springfield, the Joplin Trails-Coalition, Gateway Off-Road Cyclists (GORC), Missouri Rock Island Trail, the Great Rivers Greenway, and many others around Missouri have all done their parts making communities better places to walk, run, hike, bicycles, and enjoy the outdoors safely. 

With more people on our streets and sidewalks we must turn to our communities and state to do as much as they can to provide a safe environment to participate in outdoor activities. 

We support laws prohibiting use of hand-held cell phones and text messaging while driving.  The Missouri Bicycle and Pedestrian Federation, our members, and allied groups consider these to be fundamental, minimum requirements for safe driving. 

Missouri legislators have considered distracted driving and cell phone laws for nearly two decades. In that time, 48 states have passed laws banning texting while driving. Every state adjoining Missouri and in fact every state in the Midwest has banned texting while driving. And many states have even stronger rules regulating the use of electronic devices while driving.

These are common-sense rules designed to keep all users on or near roadways safer.

Experience in 48 states has shown that these common-sense driving safety laws work.  They reduce distracted driving and improve road safety.

We support improving Missouri’s current law—which bans on texting while driving for drivers under the age of 21—by adding these important provisions, based on the best practices for reducing distracted driving passed in other states:

·         Ban on all cell phone use for young, inexperienced drivers

·         Ban texting while driving for all drivers

·         Require hands-free electronic device use for all drivers

·         Ban on all cell phone use for bus drivers, except for (hands-free) required communications with dispatch

Here’s to a healthier and safer 2021 in Missouri.

Michael Hennies has been a Missouri Bicycle & Pedestrian Federation Board member since 2013 and is now President of the statewide organization.

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