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Lawmakers hope to change Missouri's distracted driving law

Distracting driving law
Posted at 6:41 PM, Jan 04, 2022

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Missouri lawmakers want 2022 to be the year they finally change the state's distracted driving law.

Currently, Missouri is one of only two states without a law banning all drivers from being on their cell phones while driving.

Missouri's current law only prohibits drivers 21 and under from texting while driving and comes with a $200 fine and two points against the driver's license.

The law does prohibit commercial drivers from using a hand-held communication device, including to send, read or write a text.

Data from the Missouri Department of Transportation shows 70% of drivers using cell phones in Missouri traffic crashes are 22 years of age or older.

State Sen. Greg Razer, (D) - Kansas City, is one of several lawmakers filing legislation for the upcoming session to address the law.

Razer's bill, SB 713, would prohibit all drivers from picking up their phones or looking at them. The bill would allow drivers to use hands-free methods such as Bluetooth or Apple CarPlay.

"This is a bad habit that pretty much everyone has gotten into, I know it’s a bad habit I had and have really had to remind myself that text can wait, that email can wait," Razer said.

Razer's bill does have exceptions for Uber drivers or people who will be dispatched and need to touch their cell phone to see where they are going next.

He is pleased to see the move is getting bipartisan support and hopes it will get the attention it needs in the legislature this year.

"Right off the bat, we have to tackle congressional redistricting and a supplemental budget and these really big issues, and things like this have a tendency to kind of slide as session goes on, so we have to keep that pressure up to get this bill passed," Razer said.

For Adrienne Siddens, changing the law is personal. Her husband, 34-year-old Randall Siddens, was killed when a driver who was speeding and Facetiming crashed into him.

"I’m so angry at the girl who hit him because it just shouldn’t have happened, it shouldn’t have," Siddens said.

Randall was working for Ultramax Event Services in Columbia in May 2019 when the crash happened. He was picking up cones to open a road back up during a race event.

"It was something he had done for years, their crews were super safe, he had a police escort, he was all decked out in highlighter yellow," Siddens said.

Randall survived the crash that day but was taken to the hospital with a traumatic brain injury. Six months later, Siddens had to make the difficult decision to take him off life support.

She has since become an advocate for changing the distracted driving law and shares her story in the hopes it will raise awareness and prevent more families from going through the same experience.

"If she hadn’t hurt somebody that day, it would’ve been another day because that type of reckless driving is something that people have a habit of doing, you get in a hurry, you prioritize your phone and your conversation and whatever and driving just becomes a medial task," Siddens said.

As more times goes by, Missouri roadways continue to get more dangerous.

According to the Missouri Coalition for Roadway Safety, since 2015, an average of 108 people are killed every year in distracted driving-related crashes and over the past five years, cell phone-related crashes in the state have increased by 30%, with nearly 2,500 crashes in 2019.