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Missouri's Laws on Texting and Driving

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Discover the essentials of Missouri’s texting and driving laws with Buchanan, Williams & O’Brien. Learn how to stay on the right side of the law. Call us now for more information.

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Navigating Missouri’s Texting and Driving Law

In an age of constant connectivity, many states have started implementing new laws to address the issue as it affects traffic safety. Missouri is one of those states.

Between 2012 and 2021, Missouri’s Department of Transportation reported 200,000 distracted driving crashes, resulting in 801 fatalities. Cell phone use is believed to be one of the major causes of distracted driving across the nation.

While distracted driving is a serious issue on Missouri’s roadways, there are steps you can take to reduce the impact of a car accident on your daily life. Below, we explore Missouri’s law on texting and driving, penalties and implications, and the impact on personal injury cases.

Have you or a loved one been injured by a distracted driver? If so, trust Buchanan, Williams & O’Brien’s for extensive experience in personal injury law. Together, we can advocate for responsible driving. Visit our homepage for more information.

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The Legal Framework Governing Missouri’s Texting and Driving Law

The recent passage of the Siddens Bening Hands-Free Law made Missouri the 49th state to enact a distracted driving law prohibiting texting while driving. The law became effective on August 28, 2023.

Under Missouri Revised Statutes Section 304.820, all noncommercial and commercial motor vehicle operators are prohibited from using hand-held electronic communication devices while driving on a public highway. An “electronic communication device” is a broad term that covers any device used to “initiate, receive, store, or view communication, information, images, or data electronically.” This includes cell phones, tablets, laptops, and similar devices.

The law prohibits drivers from:

  • Physically holding any electronic devices.

  • Writing, reading, sending, or receiving any text-based communication.

  • Watching or recording videos on any electronic communication device.

  • Manually entering symbols, letters, or numbers into any electronic communication device.

Enforcement of the Siddens Bening Hands-Free Law

Individuals who violate the Siddens Bening Hands-Free Law will receive a warning until January 1, 2025. After that, drivers caught violating the law will receive a minimum fine of $150, $250 for a second violation within 24 months, and $500 for a third offense. First-time offenses can result in a $500 fine if they occur in a school or construction zone.

The law is enforced as a secondary offense. Similar to the enforcement of Missouri’s seatbelt law, law enforcement officers will not stop an individual for using an electronic communication device. Instead, a texting and driving violation can be added to other citations.

Exceptions to the Siddens Bening Hands-Free Law

Missouri texting and driving law exempts the use of hand-held devices when:

  • The driver used a hand-held device to report illegal activity or summon emergency assistance.

  • The driver used the device to relay information between an operator and a dispatcher.

It also allows drivers to:

  • Receive voice calls utilizing voice-operated features that can be engaged with a single touch.

  • Talk on the phone utilizing features like headsets or in-car Bluetooth.

  • Send text-based communication via voice-to-text feature.

  • Utilize cell phone GPS navigation and music.

The Impact of Violations on Driving Records

Any citations received after August 28, 2023, are no longer point assessable on your Missouri driving record. Previously, texting and driving carried a penalty of two points. However, the primary offense can still carry points. An accumulation of these points on your driving record can lead to license suspension or revocation.

Additionally, a citation for texting and driving may increase your insurance rates because your insurance company can view this behavior as a liability.

The Legal Framework Governing Missouri's Texting and Driving Law

Confused about Texting and Driving in Missouri? We are here to answer your questions.

The Dangers of Texting While Driving

In 2022, 84 people were killed in distracted driving crashes in Missouri. Over half of the reported fatalities were someone other than the distracted driver. Cell phone use is believed to be one of the leading and most concerning causes of distracted driving crashes.

Preventative Measures and Safe Driving Tips

In the modern world, there is an urge to stay connected. However, the use of cell phones and other devices while driving can have severe and long-term consequences. Not only can you be penalized for this behavior, but distracted driving significantly increases your risk of being involved in a crash.

Drivers need to resist the urge to use their cell phones while driving for their safety and the safety of others on the road. Some practical tips to help avoid texting while operating a vehicle include:

  • Making a plan before starting your journey and respond to any important messages.

  • Setting a personal rule to not use your phone for non-emergency purposes while driving.

  • Placing your phone out of reach, such as in the trunk, backseat, or glove compartment.

  • Using phone features to help reduce distractions, like activating “driving mode.”

  • Assigning a designated passenger to handle phone calls or messages.

There are several technology aids can also help prevent texting and driving, including:

  • Bluetooth and voice commands.

  • Distracted driving apps such as LifeSaver and TrueMotion Family.

  • Car connectivity systems that can access phone functions.

  • Phone settings and features such as “Do Not Disturb.”

Legal Support for Victims of Texting and Driving Accidents

While Missouri law now penalizes cell phone use by drivers, victims of distracted driving still need to take steps on their own to seek justice. Buchanan, Williams & O’Brien offers support to distracted driving accident victims.

Our personal injury attorneys can help victims with:

  • Personal injury lawsuits. Attorneys help victims to file a personal injury lawsuit against the liable driver. Victims need to establish that the driver was negligent by texting while driving and that this negligence caused sustained damages such as pain, medical expenses, or lost wages.
  • Understanding comparative negligence. Even if you were partially at fault for an accident, you may still be able to receive compensation. Under Missouri’s pure comparative negligence system, victims of traffic crashes can recover based on the percentage of fault. For instance, if you are found to be 25% at fault, and the other driver is 75% at fault, you each would bear 25% and 75% of the damages, respectively.
  • Insurance claims. Victims can file a claim with the at-fault driver’s insurance company. Missouri at-fault system holds the driver’s insurance company responsible for your damages and medical expenses.
  • Legal representation. It is essential to consult a personal injury attorney experienced with distracted driving cases. At Buchanan, Williams & O’Brien, our team is experienced in handling a wide variety of personal injury claims. We will represent your interests in negotiations and in court.

 

Contact Buchanan, Williams & O’Brien Attorneys Today

Have you been involved in an accident caused by a distracted driver? Buchanan, Williams & O’Brien are here to help. Our Missouri accident attorneys are professionals who help Missouri drivers injured in traffic crashes. We help restore normalcy in our client’s lives and receive justice for their injuries.

Contact our law office for a free consultation about your case.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can You Go to Jail for Texting While Driving?

No. However, it is essential to remember that a citation for texting while driving is a secondary offense. Jail time may be a penalty for the primary offense, for instance, if you are charged with careless and imprudent driving.

 

What Steps Can I Take After a Texting and Driving Incident?

If you have been involved in a texting and driving incident, you can:

  • Ensure safety by moving your vehicle out of traffic to a secure location.
  • Assess yourself and others for any injuries.
  • Contact law enforcement and emergency services to report the accident.
  • Exchange contact and insurance information with the other party involved in the accident.
  • Consult an attorney.

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