Will MO make roadways safer by expanding texting while driving ban?

A new bill seeks to ban texting for all Missouri drivers. Research indicates this ban could reduce fatalities if it makes texting a primary offense.

Driver distraction can take many forms, but texting is arguably one of the most dangerous, as many people in Kansas City know. The Missouri Department of Transportation states that drivers spend 400 percent more time looking away from the road when they text, greatly raising the risk of accidents. Given this danger, most states ban all drivers from texting. Missouri's current texting ban only applies to drivers under age 21, but in 2015, a new bill may broaden the ban.

The bill aims to explicitly prohibit drivers of all ages from texting, according to ABC News. Similar bans have failed to pass in the state in previous years, possibly because the bills took a broad approach to address the overall issue of driver inattention. The sponsor of the current bill believes that this one is more likely to succeed because it specifically focuses on one serious safety concern.

Potential safety gains

One study suggests that a comprehensive texting ban could result in fewer fatal car accidents in Missouri. According to The Huntsville Times, researchers from the University of Alabama at Birmingham surveyed accident data in all states to see how texting bans affected fatality rates. The researchers concluded that primary texting bans reduce traffic deaths by about 3 percent, which averages out to 19 fatalities avoided in each state each year.

The safety gains could be even more significant in Missouri, given the current toll of distracted driving. According to ABC News, MDOT data reveals that texting caused 350 crashes in 2012 alone. The number of accidents in which texting was a contributing factor or an unidentified cause is presumably even higher.

Unfortunately, the same University of Alabama study suggests that all texting bans are not equally effective. Secondary bans, in which authorities can only cite drivers who have also committed a primary offense, are not associated with notable reductions in fatalities, according to The Huntsville Times. Enacting this type of ban might send the right message to Missouri motorists, but it may not lead to significant safety improvements.

Addressing distracted driving accidents

Statistics indicate accidents involving texting drivers may affect many people in Missouri this year. Whether or not the proposed texting ban becomes law, the victims of these accidents may be able to hold the at-fault drivers responsible and seek compensation. A behavior that is considered legal for drivers may still be viewed as negligent if it represents a clear breach of a driver's duty to show due care to other road users.

Anyone who has been hurt in an accident in which the other driver was texting or otherwise behaving recklessly should consider meeting with a personal injury attorney to discuss the circumstances as well as options for pursuing compensation.

Keywords: distracted, driving, texting, accident