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Missouri legislature passes bill banning texting while driving

Cars drive west on Interstate 64 on Wednesday, Feb. 23, 2022, in St. Louis, Missouri.
Brian Munoz
St. Louis Public Radio
Cars drive west on Interstate 64 on Wednesday, Feb. 23, 2022, in St. Louis, Missouri.

Missouri will be one of the last states to implement punishments for drivers who text and drive — but only if they’re caught doing it while committing another traffic offense.

Missouri may finally prohibit texting while driving.

Lawmakers approved legislation Thursday that includes punishments if someone is texting while driving and committing another traffic offense, such as speeding or running a stop sign.

The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Nick Schroer, R-Defiance, said the ban is more measured than those in other states.

“You can still have your device, whether it's a map or if it's music,” Schroer said. “But if you're going to cross the center line or if you're going to break other laws? Yes, you could be pulled over and you could have that used against you. But just simply having it on your lap or in your hand or in your pocket — it's not going to be a violation on its own.”

Schroer added that a police officer can only go into someone’s phone if there’s a car accident that results in injury.

“So it's protecting the privacy rights of the individual, while at the same time letting the public know: ‘Hey, let's not text and drive,’” Schroer said.

Rep. Jim Murphy, R-South St. Louis County, said he’s been getting numerous requests from constituents to stop people from driving while they’re on their phones.

“We've had some so many tragedies with deaths where people are just distracted, they're not looking on the road,” Murphy said. "And they're just killing people. We as a state are the 49th state to do this. It was time.”

Missouri and Montana are the only states that don’t have a complete ban on texting while driving.

“There's a lot of people that think it's somehow imposing upon our freedom,” Murphy said. “But I don't believe it's an imposition on your freedom when you're actually doing something that jeopardizes the people around you. And it's knowingly.”

Schroer said the language was able to satisfy “freedom lovers.”

“And when we tried to find a way to fix this and try to deter people from partaking in distracted driving or careless and imprudent driving, I thought this language was the best that we could get,” Schroer said.

The bill also authorizes car buyers to pay their sales taxes at a dealership as opposed to a license office. Murphy said this could cut down on people who drive cars on expired temporary tags.

The bill now goes to Gov. Mike Parson’s desk.

Copyright 2023 St. Louis Public Radio. To see more, visit St. Louis Public Radio.

Since entering the world of professional journalism in 2006, Jason Rosenbaum dove head first into the world of politics, policy and even rock and roll music. A graduate of the University of Missouri School of Journalism, Rosenbaum spent more than four years in the Missouri State Capitol writing for the Columbia Daily Tribune, Missouri Lawyers Media and the St. Louis Beacon. Since moving to St. Louis in 2010, Rosenbaum's work appeared in Missouri Lawyers Media, the St. Louis Business Journal and the Riverfront Times' music section. He also served on staff at the St. Louis Beacon as a politics reporter. Rosenbaum lives in Richmond Heights with with his wife Lauren and their two sons.
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