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Proposed update to traffic laws seeks to crackdown on distracted driving

Posted at 4:56 PM, Jan 22, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-22 18:50:33-05

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A piece of legislation making its way through city hall aims to ensure that drivers in Kansas City, Missouri, have their eyes on the road and nothing else.

"Driving requires a lot of attention, and anything in the vehicle that takes the driver’s attention away from that can be problematic," said Eric Bunch, 4th district councilman.

It's why some Kansas City, Missouri, lawmakers want traffic codes updated to include distracted driving.

"The way the ordinance is written does not specific call out electronic devices... It doesn't name texting,” Bunch said. “It's distracted driving in general.”

Currently, the code indicates that if a driver causes a wreck, and police determined they were putting on makeup or doing any other type of grooming, reading or anything other than their gauges – writing or drawing, or even putting information into a GPS, they would be ticketed.

"Violation of this section shall be deemed a minor traffic violation punishable by a $60 fine for the first violation or $120 fine for the second and subsequent violations within five years," said Teresa Loar, 2nd District councilwoman, while reading the ordinance at Wednesday's transportation, infrastructure and operations committee hearing.

The language in the proposed ordinance is nearly word-for-word from a similar law passed in Columbia, Missouri.

As of now, there are distracted driving laws statewide, but they only apply to commercial drivers and people 21 years old and younger.

Michael Kelley, with BikeWalkKC, said traffic safety comes in “many” forms.

“We should look for as many opportunities as possible," Kelley said.

The proposed ordinance, according to Bunch, would tie in to his “Vision Zero” measure that seeks to eliminate traffic fatalities by 2030.