Most adults in Missouri can do something that is illegal in every one of our surrounding states.  But efforts have been renewed in the state senate to make it illegal here, too.

If you’re 21years and 364 days old, you cannot legally text while driving in Missouri.  But the day you turn 22, you can text to year heart’s content while you speed down the highway, your vehicle traveling the distance of a football field, and more, every three seconds.   

The senate is likely to approve a bill sponsored by Ryan McKenna of Crystal City for a third year in a row banning texting while driving at any age.  All of the states around us and 23 others have full texting bans. McKenna says texting while driving is three times more dangerous than driving while drunk.

Highway safety director Leanna Depue warns that driving is too complex to be sending text messages. “texting compromises all three things you need to drive,” she says, “visual, physical, and cognitive.” 

But Highway Patrol superintendent Ron Replogle says it’s a growing problem–for all ages. He says people who drive and text, at whatever age, are 23 times more likely to have an accident than drivers who don’t text.  “I don’t know of anybody in the room that if they consciously stopped and thought ,’I’m 23 times more likely to cause an accident,’ that they would continue to do what they’re doing.”

 Mobile phone companies are taking public stands against Missouri’s limited ban on texting while driving.  Representatives form Verizon and AT&T were among those testifying in favor of the bill at a senate hearing. 

The senate has approved the full ban before. The House made it legal to text while driving two years ago.  Last year it offered to eliminate the age provision, but to keep allowing texting on gravel roads—an idea that McKenna found so silly that dropped the issue.

An early Senate approval is likely again this year. McKenna hopes the House doesn’t mess with his bill this time.

Listen to the committee hearing on McKenna’s bill. 11:36 mp3