A proposal moving through the Missouri legislature places restrictions on drivers who are transporting people for a fee.
Such operators would be prohibited from using a handheld electronic wireless device to take part in a phone conversation, or send or write a text or electronic message.
House Republican Galen Higdon of St. Joseph, who is sponsoring the measure, thinks the technology has created driving distractions that need to be curtailed.
“If you take your handheld device and you read it, you’ve just taken your eyes off the road” said Higdon. “If you turn to read it, now you’re concentrating on the words and the reading and the understanding of the text.”
Higdon contends there are plenty of hands free options for communication. “You can actually send a text, and my wife did it the other day, by talking into her phone and then saying ‘send’. That text came to me in a written form.”
The measure’s seen by proponents as protection for people who rely on services such as Uber, Lyft, or taxis for transportation.
It passed on a 9-1 bipartisan vote out of the House Committee on Crime Prevention and Public Safety after being amended.
Panel member Shamed Dogan (R-Ballwin) submitted a change which was adopted by the committee stating that an electronic message “shall not include a ride confirmation”, a stipulation which allows ride sharing drivers to still be able to use an app to accept a fare. Dogan is a part-time Uber driver in the St. Louis area.
First responders and people reporting illegal activity or emergencies would be exempt from the restriction.
During presentation of the measure, no one spoke out against it. 11 organizations and individuals testified in support, including the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, and AAA Auto Club of Missouri, as well as several medical and insurance groups.
The proposal is known as the “Fair Fare Passenger Safety Act of 2017”. It could see action on the Missouri House floor after the legislature returns to session on March 27th following its annual spring break.