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Columbia considers distracted driving laws

The Columbia City Council will consider changing its laws to tackle distracted driving.

ABC 17 News reported two months ago on the “Vision Zero policy,” highlighting that Columbia has a higher rate of cars hitting pedestrians than places like New York City and Seattle.

The new measure seeks to take on distracted driving, which the city says caused hundreds of crashes in the last several years.

The city council will now consider a new ordinance that specifies what it means to drive carefully.

Drivers could get in trouble for typing into GPS, reading anything other than what’s on the dashboard, turning their head away from the road, using the car’s mirror to groom themselves and “writing or drawing,” according to the proposed ordinance.

Distracted driving accounted for 404 crashes in the city between 2012 and 2016, according to MoDOT. That includes one death and more than 500 injuries.

Despite this, the city’s ordinance doesn’t make any specific restriction against texting and driving.

It’s illegal in Missouri to text and drive under the age of 21, and even if the city tried to make it stricter, they might run into problems with the state law. Missouri restricts cities and counties from making their own laws regarding cell phone use while driving.

So how does the city plan on making something like typing into GPS illegal?

The city’s attorney, Nancy Thompson told ABC 17 News it wouldn’t apply to phone use, but instead to things like an in-car GPS system.

“It has to do with being a careful and prudent driver and making sure that your attention is not diverted away from the primary task of operating a motor vehicle,” said Thompson.

The city council is set to vote on the issue in two weeks.

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