Proposals to let law enforcement pull people over for not wearing a seatbelt, and to ban texting while driving for everyone, have been offered for the legislature to consider.
Law enforcement in Missouri can only ticket someone for not wearing a seatbelt after stopping that person for another offense, and Missouri law only makes texting while driving illegal for those 21 or younger and commercial drivers.
Representative Nate Walker (R-Kirksville) proposes a primary seatbelt law – that would let law enforcement stop people just for not wearing a seatbelt, and banning texting while driving for everyone.
Walker, whose among other things is a former director of the Missouri Division of Highway Safety, says both bills would address growing problems.
“I just notice when I drive up and down the road … more and more people tend to be not focusing on driving and apparently are looking at their electronic device, whether it be a phone or something else, and it appears that they are texting while they’re driving. I notice a lot of cars that are weaving around,” said Walker. “Also fatalities this year have been on the increase and [the Department of Transportation] and the Highway Patrol have attributed people not wearing their safety devices as often.”
The Highway Patrol reports in fatal crashes this year involving individuals who by law should be restrained, 63 percent of those were people who were not restrained at the time of the crash. It says in 2014, six people died in 351 accidents attributed to someone texting or e-mailing while driving. 157 more people were injured.
Both proposals have the backing of the state Highways and Transportation Commission. Chairman Stephen Miller told Missourinet, “We think that both of those measures have proven in other areas of the United States to make a difference in highway fatalities.”
The primary seatbelt law is not without its opponents, however. One of Walker’s fellow Republicans, Representative Jay Barnes (Jefferson City) doesn’t like the idea.
“I don’t support providing probable cause to stop people just because they’re not wearing a seatbelt, if they’re otherwise obeying the law,” said Barnes.
Some Missouri cities have enacted bans on texting while driving and at least one – Osage Beach – is considering its own primary seatbelt law.