Is It Illegal to Text and Drive in Missouri?

Distracted driving, especially while texting and driving, is a common and serious issue in Missouri, as even looking away from the road for a second can spell disaster. This has been an issue that has paved the way for many states to set new laws and regulations specifically for using phones while driving. Let’s take a closer look at some of these laws in Missouri and what they mean for you when you get behind the wheel with Mutrux Firm.  

So, is it illegal to text and drive in Missouri? YES! In August 2023, Missouri rolled out its first blanket legislation on texting and driving. However, enforcement and penalties will not begin until 2025.

What Is Considered Distracted Driving

Distracted driving is not just limited to mobile phone use; it can be anything that distracts you from the road ahead, such as eating, drinking, talking to others in the car, changing the radio station, or really anything else that could take your eyes off the road. Texting and driving have been the target of legislation throughout the country, as this seems to be the most common. When a driver is texting, they are looking down at their phone, taking their hands off the steering wheel, and this could cause them to not be as alert as they should be. 

distracted texting and driving
Vector image by VectorStock / Anastasia8

The Impact of Distracted Driving

Distracted driving has quite an impact on communities throughout the country. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), distracted driving claimed 3,142 lives in 2019 alone. These statistics are staggering and could be prevented if everyone focused on one thing while behind the wheel: driving.

National Perspective on Texting and Driving Laws

Throughout the country, there are quite a few laws that address distracted driving, with texting and driving being at the forefront. For example, 48 states and Washington D.C. have enacted some type of laws against texting and driving. Missouri, however, has taken a different approach to the issue up until August 2023, when a new blanket ban on texting and driving was enacted.

Texting and Driving Laws in Missouri

Missouri passed a law banning texting while driving for those of all ages in August 2023. This is due to the efforts of various advocacy groups, which pressured lawmakers to take action.

Missouri Revised Statutes: Section 304.820

Missouri Revised Statutes: Section 304.820 was the only ban on texting and driving up until August 2023.

This revised statute, known as Section 304.820, declares:

“No person twenty-one years of age or younger shall operate a motor vehicle while using a hand-held electronic wireless communications device to send, read, or write a text message or electronic message.”

Therefore, it is illegal for all drivers aged 21 and younger to text and drive. However, this law does not apply to drivers over the age of 21. Along with Montana, this makes Missouri one of the few states to not have a blanket ban on texting and driving. 

Exceptions to the Law

There are a few exceptions to the law, however, such as:

  • Drivers using their device to report illegal activity.
  • Drivers using their device to summon medical or other emergency help.
  • Drivers using their device to prevent injury to a person or property.
  • Drivers using their device to relay information between a transit or for-hire operator and that operator’s dispatcher, when the device is permanently affixed to the vehicle.

insurance company negotiations

Penalties for Violation

Those 21 and under who are in violation of this law could be given a fine of $200; however, there are no points added to their license for the first offense. The second time could include higher fines and even points added to their license. 

The Rationale Behind Missouri’s Approach

So, you might be wondering why Missouri targets younger drivers with this legislation. This is due to several issues, one of the main is hesitance to enact a blanket legislation on texting and driving for everyone. Lawmakers throughout the state argue that it will be difficult to enforce and could infringe upon personal freedoms. However, some believe that educating drivers on things such as awareness campaigns could prevent distracted driving.

Enforcement and Challenges

When it comes to enforcing distracted driving laws, in particular, those targeting texting, there are a few challenges. Many police officers find it extremely difficult to determine whether or not a driver is texting or distracted, such as using their infotainment screen or changing the radio station.

Enforcement Strategies

To address these challenges, Missouri law enforcement agencies employ various strategies, including:

  • Increased Patrols: Targeted patrols in areas with high incidences of distracted driving accidents.
  • Unmarked Vehicles: Use of unmarked vehicles to observe drivers without being noticed.
  • Public Awareness Campaigns: Educating the public about the dangers of texting while driving and the legal consequences of getting caught.

tyson mutrux

Technological Solutions

Law enforcement agencies are also introducing more technological solutions to help curb the issue of texting and driving. Many states have begun using cameras and other technology to detect when drivers are using their phones. However, Missouri has not introduced these technologies; they could be a potential tool in their arsenal in the future. 

Comparison with Other States

It’s important to understand the rationale of some of the other states throughout the country to see how Missouri compares.

Comprehensive Bans

In most states, there are blanket bans on texting and driving for all drivers. In some states, such as Illinois and California, it’s illegal for drivers of all ages to text and drive. There are also much stricter penalties for these states that could include fines and points on the driver’s license. 

Primary vs. Secondary Enforcement

How these laws are enforced also differs in various states. For example, in some states, texting and driving is a primary offense, meaning that a driver can be pulled over solely for texting. However, in other states, it is a secondary offense, meaning that the driver must be stopped for another offense before being cited for texting and driving. In Missouri, until August 2023, primary enforcement was only taken into effect for those 21 and younger. 

Public Opinion and Advocacy

There has been much support for laws against texting and driving, and also support for much stricter regulations. Numerous advocacy groups, such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) and the National Safety Council (NSC), have been vocal in pushing for more comprehensive distracted driving laws across the United States, including in Missouri.

Surveys and Studies

In surveys conducted throughout the country, most support bans on texting while driving. Further studies show that states with stricter texting and driving laws have seen a decrease in distracted driving-related accidents and fatalities.

st louis car safety

Advocacy Efforts in Missouri

In Missouri, advocacy efforts continue throughout the state for more comprehensive bans on texting and driving. Organizations like the Missouri Coalition for Roadway Safety and local chapters of national advocacy groups are actively working to raise awareness and influence legislation.

The Broader Context: Distracted Driving Beyond Texting

Texting isn’t the only thing to worry about when it comes to distracted driving. There are also many other things drivers could be doing with their phones.

In-Vehicle Technology

Many vehicles come with an infotainment display, along with a range of other technologies that could cause distractions when behind the wheel, such as navigation systems and driver assistance systems.

Other Distractions

Eating, drinking, grooming, and interacting with passengers are other common distractions. Public awareness campaigns often address these behaviors alongside texting and driving.

The Role of Education and Technology

With such a wide range of technology available today, it is more important than ever before to address distracted driving nationwide. Let’s check out a few potential solutions to curb distracted driving. 

Driver Education Programs

Driver education programs are designed to emphasize the dangers of distracted driving, and they have been very effective. High schools and driving schools throughout the country have lessons on distracted driving in their curriculum to address these issues. Public service announcements and media campaigns have also been quite effective in keeping driving safe.

Technological Solutions

Technology offers several solutions to mitigate distracted driving:

  • Apps and Devices: There are apps and devices designed to block incoming texts and calls while driving.
  • Vehicle Technology: Newer vehicles are equipped with features like lane departure warnings and collision avoidance systems that can help prevent accidents caused by distracted driving.
  • Government and Industry Collaboration: Collaboration between government agencies and the automotive industry is crucial to developing and implementing effective technological solutions.

The Future of Distracted Driving Laws in Missouri

In August 2023, Missouri introduced its very first blanket texting and driving laws for anyone, regardless of age. However, citations and penalties will not go into effect until 2025.

how to get a rental car after an accident

Legislative Trends

As awareness campaigns continue across the state, there has been increased pressure on Missouri lawmakers to enact more comprehensive bans on texting and driving. This has been the case in other states as well, as increased awareness tends to encourage lawmakers to enact new legislation.  

Advocacy and Public Pressure

Advocacy groups and public pressure will continue to play a significant role. As these groups intensify their efforts, lawmakers in Missouri might continue to make strides toward enacting more laws against texting and driving.

Technological Advancements

In our ever-changing technological landscape, advancements in technology could certainly impact distracted driving laws throughout the state. As these new technologies emerge, such as autonomous vehicles, these laws might have to be updated to adjust to these newer trends.

Get in Touch With Mutrux Firm Today!

Texting and driving remains a critical issue throughout Missouri today, and as more awareness campaigns and pushes for laws continue, we might see lawmakers roll out new ideas for texting and driving laws throughout the state. This continues to be a hot-button issue, as the need to keep drivers safe while preserving personal freedoms leaves much up for discussion.

If you were involved in a car accident due to a distracted driver, get in touch with Mutrux Firm Injury Lawyers today! Our dedicated attorneys have your best interest in mind and fight for our clients every step of the way. Give us a call at (888) 550-4026 or contact us here for more information. We want to help you get the justice you deserve for your accident so you can get back to living life.

Tyson Mutrux