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MoDOT supports hands-free cellphone proposal for Missouri drivers


The Missouri Department of Transportation is putting its support behind a proposal to ban the use of cellphones while driving.

"The Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission and the Missouri Department of Transportation support hands-free legislation for all drivers," said MoDOT spokeswoman Linda Horn.

More than 1,000 people were killed on Missouri roads in 2021, according to MoDOT, which is the most since 2006. The current state law requires hands-free for ages 21 and under. Distracted driving is a key contributor to crashes, Horn said.

MoDOT is following Senate Bill 713 sponsored by state Sen. Greg Razer (D-Kansas City). Sen. Razer says most accidents can be prevented if people put down their phones.

"I'm in my 40s, when I started driving, we didn't have cell phones, they came along and all of sudden you had this texting capability and we got into the bad habit of driving down the road, picking up phones, looking down at the screen and taking our eyes off the road and what we're seeing are lots and lots of preventable accidents because people have their eyes on the phone and not the road, said Razer. 

Senate Bill 713 would expand Missouri's current law to all drivers. The bill says that no one can drive a noncommercial motor vehicle on a public road while using a wireless communication device.

However, under the bill drivers could drive a noncommercial vehicle while using a hands-free wireless device, provided the driver is not holding the hands-free device and that the driver does not divert attention from driving.

The bill will also prohibit anyone under the age of 18 or those with an instruction permit or intermediate license, regardless of age, from using a wireless communication device while driving except to contact emergency services.

According to Missouri Coalition for Roadway Safety, 82 people died in 2020 in distracted driving crashes. 80 percent of those people were also over 21 years old.

Distracted driving has led to fatal consequences in Columbia. In 2019, Randall Siddens, 33 died after Regine McCracken, 23, drove into him on Grindstone Parkway, according to reports. Siddens was picking up cones after a triathlon with other employees from Ultramax Sports when McCracken drove by a police vehicle and into two Ultramax employees and one of the company’s vehicles, according to police.

It was later discovered McCracken was driving 68 mph in a 50 mph zone. The probable cause statement filed in her case stated she was using her cellphone for a video call.

Ron Bentch is the project director for Missourians for Responsible Transportation who started the hands-free Missouri Coalition. He says two-thirds of the time, a victim of a distracted driving crash is not the driver.

"They have conformation bias. They think that they can do it but it's that one time when they can't. So you get by with it one time, you think you can do it again and what the study shows is that no one is that good at multi-tasking all the time. And it's just a matter of before is going to catch up with them, " said Bentch. 

Missouri for Responsible Transportation says it's anticipating a hearing with The Senate Transportation Committee next Tuesday.

Article Topic Follows: Transportation

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Joushua Blount

Joushua Blount hails from Cleveland, Ohio and has a bachelor’s degree in media communications from the University of Toledo. He also has a master’s degree from the University Of Alabama. Roll Tide!


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