MO Bans Texting While Driving–49th State to Join Safety Measure

Up until Monday, August 28, 2023, Missouri was one of only two states in the country to not have a law on the books banning texting and driving. Missouri became the 49th state in the Union to ban hand-held phone use while driving.

Experts across the country agree that texting while driving is “one of the most dangerous of all distracting driving activities”.

According to the Missouri Coalition for Road Safety, roughly 380 people died in incidents involving and distracted driver between 2017 and 2021. Our firm’s personal experience with those seriously injured in motor vehicle crashes in Missouri let us know client by client just how big of a problem distracted driving is. We have had so many clients seriously injured due a distracted driver engaged in texting, messaging through applications, and posting to various social media platforms while at the same time, trying to operate a motor vehicle. Of course, it is hard to come across a single individual who has NOT had some near crash or near death experience with a distracted driver more focused on their screen than the road.

How many years have safety experts and the general population discussed the dangerous this is? How many times have you looked over and saw the other driver on their phone and treating the roadway as a secondary distraction? It is frustrating when you can clearly tell they are watching a video and glancing at the road from time to time. While we may refrain from distracted driving, our personal responsibility alone is not actually driving the numbers down on distracted driving. Thus, we all hope this ban influences more people to drive alert.


Our individual rights stop at the loss of safety for others. We all rely heavily on our smartphones. However, many of us realized a long time ago that they are dangerous to use while driving. Texting, taking photos and posting to social media while driving requires many cumulative minutes of time required not looking at the road. Law enforcement officers can’t penalize someone just for simply holding a phone to receive a citation. Also, if you assume road patrol officers will be at every corner looking for someone holding a phone, you haven’t been in the greater metro area much. (Overall, the number of road patrol citations have been greatly reduced including speeding, violation of road signs and lights). Driving while operating a device is now considered a secondary infraction. A driver must also be committing another violation. However, if you follow a driver that is texting and looking at his or her phone, you may need only follow them for a few blocks before they fail to yield and weave across lanes.

Captain John Hotz, director of public information and education for the Missouri State Highway Patrol said, “The seatbelt law is also a secondary violation, but yet we still have almost 90% of people wearing their seatbelts. Our hope is that even though this is a secondary violation, if we can get nine out of 10 people to stop using these devices when they’re driving, that’s going to make a huge difference in the number of crashes we see”. Unfortunately, Missouri still lags in overall seat belt usage compared to the rest of the country.

Based on the comments from MSHP and safety experts, the adoption of this law is about determent and not really about revenue through citations. Many states have seen reduced crashes and fatalities when distracted driving is reduced. It is not complicated statistics. Each and every one of us that operates a vehicle has known for years that focusing on your phone takes your attention from driving and is dangerous.

Phones can still be used for hands free directions and phone calls. Additional hands free technologies have existed for years and include: Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay, headsets and various technologies. If these technologies are used, they are helpful. You can literally get in your car, put your phone in the glovebox and still receive calls and get directions while driving.

Privacy Concerns

Some Missouri House legislators had concerns the law would lead to privacy violations as drivers try to prove they were not texting. As a trial lawyer where we have subpoenaed so many text records from drivers engaged in distracted driving, it is often very difficult to prove that you were or were not texting and driving in a mere window of seconds. Specifically, we have sought records to prove that an adverse driver was engaged in texting and driving at the time they plowed into our client’s vehicle causing permanent injury. Texting is challenging to prove as it is based on time stamp and the exact minutes and second that a crash occurs is often difficult to prove. Seconds pass before emergency personnel are called and the exact time in minutes/seconds is often difficult to pinpoint in a phone record. Additionally, defendants often hide behind the term “text” by saying they were not “texting” when in fact, they were sending personal messages through phone applications rather than a standard phone to phone text.

Again, as a personal injury firm investigating injury cases, we are not trying to prove someone should get a driving citation. We would not even be looking into phone history if their driving behavior had not resulted in another driver being seriously injured. Personally, every time I’m tempted to answer a text, I think of one of my many clients who will never be quite the same because someone else decided to look at their phone instead of the road.

Even those concerned about police encounters and privacy acknowledge. According to MoDOT State Highway Safety and Traffic Engineer Nicole Hood, “We’ve seen a troubling and unacceptable trend in distracted driving crashes in recent years, and sadly, more times than not, someone other than the distracted driver was killed. We’re hopeful this law will change the safety culture around phone use while driving and save lives”.

Please do not misunderstand, we are not saying that everyone needs to throw away their phone. Smartphones have kind of become personal extensions and some

An O’Fallon representative presented in House discussion that it would be problematic to give such vast latitude to law enforcement to hassle people on the side of the road without any real ability for you to prove that you are not guilty of this infraction without basically giving up your electronic device to be search.

Bans Have Resulted in Reduced Distracted Driving

States that have chosen to implement primary bans on all drivers saw an 8 percent reduction in distracted driving crash injuries. According to CNN, ER visits fell in states that implemented distracted driving bans.

The hope is that more people will be conscious of the dangers of distracted driving and will move to avoid much like those that think twice before drinking and driving. We saw decreased drunk driving crashes when laws were passed. Likewise, we saw a tremendous decrease in occupant ejections when seat belts were mandated. Raising the level of awareness increases safety.

If you have been injured in a motor vehicle crash, call us toll free 1.800.685.3302 or locally 314.276.1681

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The Cagle Law Firm serves accident and injury clients throughout St. Louis and the greater St. Louis metropolitan area, including the eastern Missouri and southern Illinois communities. If you or a loved one needs legal assistance with your personal injury case, call The Cagle Law Firm at (314) 276-1681 or use our online contact form to schedule a free consultation.

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