Distracted Driving Laws in Missouri
Distracted driving in Missouri is a problem as significant as it is in other parts of the United States. On a yearly basis, driving distractions cause thousands of property damage incidents, injuries and fatalities in the country. In MO, this type of damage often stems from motorists who do not comply with state traffic laws that prohibit cell phone use while driving.
Texting and driving is generally the most significant cause of distraction for motorists around the country, posing potential risks to other drivers, passersby and even physical structures. According to the United States Department of Transportation (DOT), when someone sends a text message, they take their eyes off the road for at least five seconds. At 55 mph, five seconds is enough time to drive a substantial distance. To learn more about how Missouri handles texting and driving laws and other common sources of distractions, continue reading the following sections.
What is distracted driving in Missouri?
By definition, the action of distracted driving is taking your attention away from operating a motor vehicle. Whenever a motorist focuses on an activity other than driving, he or she creates a distracted driving environment that significantly increases the chances of auto accidents. With the rapid rise in the popularity of handheld devices such as smartphones, the number of distracted drivers and related traffic accidents has also increased. In general, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) classifies driving distractions into the following categories:
- Visual – This driving distractions classification has to do with averting your eyes away from the road. Some of the most common behaviors that can lead to this distraction include texting and driving, tuning the radio or checking a map or GPS device.
- Manual – A manual distraction encompasses all activities that force you to remove your hands from the steering wheel of a motor vehicle. This typically includes such activities such as eating, smoking, combing your hair or putting on makeup.
- Cognitive – Driving while distracted includes all activities that could divert your attention away from driving, like talking with a passenger in the car or having a conversation over the phone.
The consequences for texting while driving are typically considered very serious because this activity engages in all three of the classifications established by the CDC. Other distracted activities that are among the most common causes of accidents include the following:
- Reading, composing and/or sending a text message
- Eating or drinking
- Talking to other people in the car or on the phone
- Shaving, combing your hair and/or applying makeup
- Taking pictures
- Watching videos
- Using a handheld GPS device
- Using a smartphone app
Distracted Driving Laws in Missouri for Handheld Devices
Missouri laws against distracted driving tend to be much less stringent in comparison to other states in the country. In fact, they are among the most permissive in the United States. Passed in 2009, MO traffic laws concerning driving distractions do not include a blanket ban on text messaging for all drivers.
Furthermore, distracted driver laws in Missouri do not strictly prohibit motorists behind the wheel from using their mobile phones for making or receiving calls. Although legislators tried to pass laws on distracted driving during several instances, none of those bills were approved by the state.
Missouri Laws on Distracted Driving for Novice Drivers
Laws on distracted driving in Missouri forbid novice drivers, which are motorists who are younger than 21 years of age, from sending, reading or composing text messages while operating a vehicle. Furthermore, this is considered a primary law, meaning that a law enforcement officer does not need another reason to pull over a driver for using his or her cell phone.
Texting and Driving Laws in Missouri
Texting while driving is against the law in Missouri for bus drivers and motorists who are younger than 21 years of age. This is a primary law, which means that law enforcement officers are not obligated to pull you over for a violation like speeding in order to issue you a traffic ticket for texting.
Missouri Distracted Drivers Regulations for CDL Holders
If you are a motorist who holds a commercial driver’s license, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) forbids you from cell phone use while driving a vehicle. This is particularly important because most commercial vehicles carry a significant number of passengers or transport hazardous materials.
Distracted Driving Penalties in Missouri
Distracted driving fines in Missouri are relatively lenient in comparison to other states in the country. For instance, most drivers who are found violating the state’s laws may incur very cheap monetary fines. On the other hand, novice drivers who are found guilty of texting while driving could face a $200 fine and two points on their driver’s license.
Ways to Prevent Distracting Driving in Missouri
Because of the severity of the consequences for distracted driving, it is important to be aware of the many tips and strategies that have been proven useful and successful to minimize the risks associated with these behaviors. As such, consider the following methods to reduce the odds of causing a distracted driving accident in Missouri:
- As a general rule, cell phone use while driving is only encouraged in case of emergencies. If you find yourself in a situation where making a call becomes necessary, make sure to safely pull off the road and come to a complete stop before starting a conversation over the phone. Moreover, avoid having casual conversations with people while you are driving.
- Transporting multiple passengers typically causes a distracted environment by increasing the amount of conversation and activity inside the vehicle. Thus, if possible, be mindful about limiting the number of passengers you have in your car, as well as their activity levels. This is particularly relevant to young and/or inexperienced motorists.
- Eating while driving is another common driving distraction among motorists. For instance, spilling your food or drink in the car can cause a major distraction and take your attention away from driving.
- Fatigued drivers are significantly more likely to find themselves in an accident. Overall, being tired and behind the wheel is generally a danger. Therefore, make sure to pull off the road and rest when you find yourself in this distracted driving mindset.