JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (KMIZ)
Current Missouri law allows for those 21-years or older to text and drive at the same time, but several transportation agencies, lawmakers and some victims are trying to change that.
April is distracted driving awareness month. Wednesday at 10 a.m., AAA, the Missouri Department of Transportation, and victims of distracted driving plan to meet at the Missouri State Capitol to rally for legislation that would require hands-free devices while driving.
Missouri is one of only two states in the country that still allows texting and driving; the other is Montana.
Senate Bill 713 sponsored by Sen. Greg Razer, D-Jackson County, would make it illegal to drive a car on Missouri roads while using a cell phone. SB 713 has passed favorably out of the Senate Transportation Committee and is on the Senate calendar for perfection in the full chamber.
House Bill 1487 sponsored by Rep. Jeff Porter, R-Montgomery City, would make it a misdemeanor or felony if someone got into a car accident because they were using a cell phone while driving and allows law enforcement to pull someone over for using texting and driving.
According to AAA, 577 people in Missouri have died from crashes caused by distracted driving. Although under Missouri law it's still illegal for those under 21 to text and drive, the majority of crashes involving people texting and driving are from those 22-years or older, according to AAA.
One speaker at the event, Adrienne Siddens, lost her husband in 2019 to a distracted driver. She explained how she's advocating for these bills because she doesn't want any other family to go through what hers did.
"He inspired people to do their best," Siddens said of her late husband. "That's what I hope my kids can learn even without him. That they can be that voice for people. Be encouraging and have a positive impact on people."
Siddens and other advocates with Missouri AAA are trying to make texting and driving just as stigmatized as drinking and driving.
"Putting your phone down is as serious as not driving drunk," Siddens said.
Siddens said her family is still taking things day by day, but she finds solace knowing that her husband's story has the ability to make a change.
"It's nice to know that there are people working to affect change and that his story is still being heard and that he's still being impactful," Siddens said.