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Distracted driving in Missouri

In 2012, 3,328 people were killed in car accidents involving a distracted driver. This is in addition to the over 420,000 people who were injured in accidents involving a distracted driver. Distracted driving is one of the most deadly and costliest vices in the United States that is carried out on a daily basis around the country. While the federal government has instituted bans on specific actions, such as government employees and commercial vehicle drivers’ texting while driving, much of the responsibility for enacting driver-related laws falls to the states.

Although Missouri’s State Highway Patrol has recognized inattention as a factor in over 1,500 injuries and over 200 deaths, Missouri is one of only five states that have yet to enact any meaningful laws addressing the threat of driving while distracted. The only law that Missouri has on the books concerning distracted driving is a ban on those 21 or younger from texting while driving. While other laws regulating distracted driving have been proposed, none have garnered enough votes to pass.

When sending a text while driving, the driver’s eyes leave the road for an average of five seconds. A driver going at least 55mph can drive the length of a football field during that time period. Although Missouri has no specific laws banning most of the practices that are considered to be distracting, an individual may still bring a civil suit against a distracted driver who causes him or her harm. There does not have to be a specific law concerning distracted driving on the books in order to hold an individual responsible for his or her actions.

While Missouri lacks meaningful laws regulating the use of phones and other distractions while driving, one can still address any damages in a civil suit. A civil case can still result in a party being found negligent in his or her behavior, even if no law exists condemning the behavior.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Injury Prevention & Control: Motor Vehicle Safety,” accessed Dec. 1, 2014