Although nearly everyone agrees that texting while driving is dangerous, there promises to be vigorous debate as Missouri lawmakers consider a new anti-texting law. Here is why.
Missouri’s current law against texting while driving only applies to those drivers who are 21 or younger. The law was put in force in 2009 and was the result of a quickly composed legislative compromise. Opponents of a texting ban argue that the law is unnecessary and difficult to enforce. Their position has been reinforced by recent studies that show that texting bans across the nation have been ineffective. Proponents of a new law speak with conviction as tragic fatalities caused by drivers who take their eyes off the road to key in a text continue to mount.
Whether you are for or against a law, there is little question that the public is facing an ever-growing risk on the roadways. While there was a time when texting was restricted to younger motorists, adults are now the largest class of distracted drivers. There is no question we need solutions to this growing epidemic.
From my perspective as a motor vehicle accident lawyer and a highway safety advocate, I am supporting a more comprehensive law for Missouri.
Comparison To Seat Belt Laws
Although I agree that, standing alone, anti-texting laws may not change driving behaviors, it is my position that the texting ban will contribute to the advancement of driver safety. The fact that a driving safety law is unpopular or more difficult to enforce does not mean that law can be effective with public education. For example, when seat belt laws were first proposed, there were similar objections – personal freedom was being infringed upon and the law would be difficult to enforce.
However, what we witnessed was that the seat belt laws gave governmental agencies, transportation officials, and other safety advocates a solid foundation to promote driver safety. Seat belt laws, coupled with targeted safety campaigns, caused seat belt use to increase to the point where using a seat belt is now a habit among a large majority of the motoring public. The public safety cry for a comprehensive texting law is even more appealing when you consider that seat belts only protect those who wear them, while anti-texting laws protect not only the driver, but innocent passengers and other drivers.
Drive By Example
As a highway safety advocate, I have launched a safety campaign to curb distracted driving called “Drive By Example”. The motivation for this effort was the realization that safety campaigns are an important component of influencing driver safety. I also recognized that the existing distracted driving campaigns were almost exclusively focused on teen drivers. In contrast, Drive By Example is targeted to adults which now represent the largest class of distracted drivers. By influencing adults to put aside the cell phone while driving, the adult driver is able to not only exercise the highest degree of care while driving, but also model good driving behavior for their children.