Efforts to Restrict Cell Phone Use and Curb Distracted Driving Vary Across the Country

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by | May 15, 2012 | Auto Accidents

Distracted driving, meaning operating a motor vehicle while simultaneously talking, sending a text message, or reading information on a handheld electronic device like a cell phone, has become the subject of much discussion and scrutiny recently. It is causing an increasing number of automobile accidents and traffic fatalities. According to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), over 3,000 people died in automobile accidents caused at least in part by distracted driving in 2010, and thousands more suffered injuries. As the issue has gained prominence, different jurisdictions around the country, from the city to the federal level, have responded in different ways.

Missouri currently has no statewide ban on cell phone use while driving, nor does state law prohibit adult drivers from texting behind the wheel. The only specific prohibition is a ban on texting by drivers under the age of 21. Five Missouri cities ban texting while driving, but state legislators have reportedly resisted calls by the NTSB and other advocates to pass stricter legislation. The NTSB had referenced a 2010 accident on Interstate 44 in Missouri in calling for stricter laws. The accident involved a teenager who, reportedly distracted by text messaging, caused a pileup involving a semi tractor and two school buses. The accident killed two people and injured thirty-eight.

Cell phone use continues to pose a danger on Missouri roads. One city has found a way to demonstrate the extent of distracted driving, at least at several intersections along one highway. The police department in Hannibal maintains four traffic cameras along U.S. Highway 61, where an estimated 30,000 cars travel each day. The cameras pick up multiple instances of drivers who, visibly distracted by a cell phone, run a red light. A department spokesperson estimates that twenty-five percent of the videos they review involve distracted driving.

Ten states and the District of Columbia currently ban use of a hand-held cell phone while driving. These laws may allow use of a hands-free device, however. Thirty-one states, including Kansas, ban certain beginner drivers from hand-held cell phone use. Kansas prohibits cell phone use by drivers holding a learner’s permit or an intermediate license.

Thirty-eight states and the District of Columbia ban texting while driving for all drivers. Kansas is one of the states with an across-the-board texting ban. Five states, including Missouri, ban texting by novice drivers.

Several cities around the country have instituted bans on cell phone use while driving. Billings, Montana enacted a ban in October 2010 that prohibits any hand-held use of a cell phone, meaning that talking on a hands-free device is allowed. Police in Billings and other Montana cities have stated that the laws present enforcement difficulties, as drivers may try to conceal their devices while in use.

Kansas City auto accident attorney Doug Horn advocates safe driving and represents the rights of people who have suffered injuries or lost loved ones in auto accidents. For a free and confidential consultation, contact us today online or at (816) 795-7500.