Columbia mother advocates for hands-free driving laws after husband’s death
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (KMIZ)
Adrienne Siddens lost her whole world on May 5, 2019, when a distracted driver ran over her husband while he was picking up cones after a marathon.
"She was video chatting, she wasn't texting and she was over 21, so technically under the current law that we have she wasn't doing anything wrong, and she severely injured and ultimately killed my husband," Siddens said.
The Columbia mother of three now advocates for more strict distracted driving laws.
"At the time I was pregnant with my third, so my third child never met her father, not really," Siddens said. "There's so many things he was supposed to be here for."
Missouri is one of only two states where texting and driving is still legal for some drivers. The only other state where it is still partially legal is Montana.
The Missouri Senate on Tuesday gave initial approval to a bill that would make it illegal for anyone to be texting. It needs one more vote to pass the chamber. This is the furthest any hands-free legislation has made it in Missouri since 2013.
In Missouri, texting and driving is only banned for people younger than 21 years old. According to Missouri Coalition for Roadway Safety, more than half of texting and driving crashes in Missouri are caused by people 21 years old and older.
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.
"Of course, we know that people are doing a lot more on their phones these days behind the wheel, dangerously I might add," Chabarria said. "Anywhere from posting to social media to recording videos to taking Zoom video calls."
The bill was amended so that someone could only be charged with texting and driving if they were pulled over for something else, like speeding or reckless driving. AAA foresees some issues with that.
"Essentially what can happen is an officer can see somebody looking down at their phone," Chabarria said. "If they're staying in their lane, they're not speeding, that officer would not take any action against that person. And there's nothing to say that a couple of miles down the road, that person can still be looking at their phone going through an intersection and hit a pedestrian or hit another vehicle."
Wednesday, Siddens met with Missouri lawmakers to advocate for the bill to pass. She said she's encouraged by the progress in the Senate, but cynical about House leadership's motivation to pull the bill up.
"I want to be able to tell them that we made a difference with their dad's story when they get older and can understand that," Siddens said.