JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (KMIZ)
A bill that would ban phone use while driving is now closer than ever to passing.
Similar bills have been introduced in the past but never passed either chamber of the Missouri legislature. According to AAA, 84 bills have been introduced on distracted driving in the past 13 years.
The bill only needs to pass one more committee and one more chamber before it would be sent to the governor's desk. It's scheduled for a committee vote Tuesday.
The Siddens Bening hands-free law would create a hands-free driving requirement for all Missourians. It's named after the husbands of Stephany Bening and Adrienne Siddens, who were both killed in distracted driving crashes.
Randall Siddens was hit by a distracted driver on May 5, 2019, while he was picking up cones after a marathon. Now Adrienne Siddens, a Columbia mother of three, advocates for more strict distracted driving laws.
"The whole reason I advocate for Randall is to share his story and give him a voice now that he's gone," Siddens said.
The bill would not just address texting and driving, it would, as AAA spokesman Nick Chabarria puts it, essentially make Missouri a hands-free state.
"Missouri's current law was established in 2013, a lot has changed with smartphones since then. We know people aren't just texting anymore," Chabarria said.
A compromise was added to this bill that makes it secondary enforcement, meaning that an officer cannot pull someone over for just being on their phone. Under this amendment, someone could only be charged with texting and driving if they were pulled over for something else, like speeding or reckless driving. Chabarria said AAA foresees some issues with that.
According to AAA, nine people die every day from distracted driving crashes.
Missouri is one of two states in the country that does not prohibit all drivers from texting while driving. Under Missouri's current law, only drivers 21 and younger are prohibited from texting and driving. However, the law does not apply to scrolling on social media and posting, taking video calls or reading an email.
Data in Missouri also shows that between 2012 and 2021, over 197,000 distracted driving-related crashes killed over 800 people. 74% of those drivers in cellphone-related crashes were 22 years or older, according to Missouri's Coalition for Roadway Safety Data.
Monday's event allowed Triple AAA Missouri to recognize local efforts to improve roadway safety by honoring Buckle-Up Phone Down High School and Business Showdown contest winners.