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Missouri May Expand Texting While Driving Ban to Include Everyone

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According to the U.S. Department of Transportation 80% of all road accidents happen because the driver is distracted. Currently in Missouri, it’s illegal for anyone 21 or younger to text while driving. But there is a proposal on the table to expand that rule to include everyone. KSMU’s Theresa Carter has the story.

Many of us have come to rely heavily upon our trusty electronic devices which make keeping in touch so much easier. However, text messaging becomes a major safety concern when people choose to text while driving. The National Governors Highway Safety Association says that 6 states have already adopted a ban on text messaging for all-age drivers, while another 19 states ban texting only for novice drivers.

Linda Fischer, a state representative from Bonne Terre, Missouri, is sponsoring a new bill to expand the ban on texting while driving.

"The idea behind last year's bill was a great idea to save lives. However, it targets that group of citizens that have been the most well versed in texting. So the expansion of the texting bill would include all people. The act of texting is what is very dangerous, not the age of the person texting," Fischer says.

Cell phones and text messaging are becoming more commonplace everyday. But many people continue to ignore the dangers of combining them with driving. Sgt. Dan Bracker is with the Missouri State Highway Patrol in Springfield.

"I don't think people understand how deadly texting is, or can be. We know that teenagers can text without even looking at their phones, and we understand that. But it is not just the act of texting, but the thought process that goes into it. When you are driving this 'two-ton bullet' down the road, and are not paying total attention, it can be deadly. It has been deadly," he said.

Bracker said he couldn’t give any statistics of how many motorists have actually been ticketed for this offense. He reminds drivers that they can be pulled over simply for suspicion.

"You know if they're driving down the road, and driving erratic, then we stop them for that reason. And if we stopped them, and they are above the age, we can still give them a ticket or warning for 'careless and imprudent driving,' [or] not driving in one lane," he said

If the new bill passes expanding the age limit to include all drivers, it could go into effect as early as this summer. Bracker and Fischer both suggest that when it comes to safe driving, it is important to resist the urge to text, as no message is worth putting yourself and others in harm’s way.

For KSMU News, I’m Theresa Carter.