An automotive group wants state lawmakers to ban texting while driving in Missouri. Currently, people 21 and older are allowed to text behind the wheel.
Mike Right with AAA Missouri thinks the concept of restricting the practice by age doesn’t make sense. “The whole notion is idiotic” said Right. “The age is not an issue. It’s the distraction associated with texting that’s the issue. It’s not related to any age.”
Triple-A has supported all proposals in the legislature to ban texting while driving in the past. It’s been attempted numerous times over the past three years with no success.
Right calls the rationale behind barring only young people from the practice illogical. “People over 21 are less able to deal with texting and driving than someone who’s under 21, whose manual dexterity is a heck of a lot better than somebody who’s 55 years old.”
A proposal to outright ban texting while driving for everyone has been filed each of the last three years in the Missouri legislature. Each one failed to gain traction.
Right says lawmakers’ previous reasons for rejecting the ban are weak. “We’re a little slow to adopt these restrictions on driving because we don’t want to establish a nanny state. Well, I would rather have a nanny state than be injured by somebody that thinks that they have the capability of texting and driving.”
Democratic Senator Jill Schupp of Creve Coeur pre-filed legislation for the upcoming legislative session to ban all ages from texting behind the wheel. Senate Bill 165 is identical to the last three failed measures. It does permit texting through hands-free, voice activated devices.
AAA’s Right doesn’t oppose the provision as a compromise, but doesn’t think hands-free devices solve the problem of distracted driving. “Hands free is not risk free” said Right. “It engages your consciousness. You can’t drive a car and think about what you’re saying, and do calculations, if you will, or whatever the conversation might require.”
Currently 46 states, Washington D.C., Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands ban text messaging for all drivers. Two states, including Missouri, restrict younger drivers from the practice. Three states prohibit bus drivers from texting behind the wheel.
Nine proposals, not identical, but similar to Senator Schupp’s measure were introduced in the legislature in 2015 and 2016. All of them fell short.