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Missouri’s new cell phone use while driving law explained

Missouri drivers risk receiving traffic citations if they have a cell phone in their hands beginning on August 28.

The new law covers sending or receiving phone calls, texting, watching or recording videos, broadcasting, chatting or engaging in other electronic communications while operating a motor vehicle. Using GPS devices, hand-free functions and two-way radios will be permitted.

Gov. Mike Parson signed the legislation in July. The state’s current law bans texting and driving only for drivers 21 and younger, making it one of only two states without a similar law for those older than 21.

cell phone missouri“That really sent the wrong message to drivers that once you reach a certain age you can safely multitask behind the wheel,” AAA spokesman Nick Chabarria said. “But we know that distracted driving and drunk driving have a lot in common. Nearly 200,000 crashes have occurred in Missouri, and more than 800 people killed over the last decade due to distracted driving.”

Violators initially will receive warnings, with penalties beginning in 2025. At that time, a first-time violation will result in a fine of up to $150 and can increase to $500 for multiple violations within two years. After that, additional penalties can occur.

Drivers should know the new texting and driving law is considered a secondary enforcement, such as Missouri’s seatbelt law. This means law enforcement can write a citation only after pulling a driver over for another offense. The new law also prohibits school bus drivers from using electronic communication devices while loading or unloading passengers, as well as when the bus is in motion. Law enforcement officers and emergency vehicle operators will be granted exceptions to use electronic devices while driving in emergency vehicles for job-related purposes.

The law allows drivers to:

  • Place or receive voice calls utilizing voice-operated or hands-free functions that can be engaged/disengaged with a single touch or swipe
  • Talk on the phone, hands-free, utilizing features like built-in phone speaker, in-car Bluetooth, or ear bud/headset
  • Send or receive text-based communication through voice-to-text features
  • Utilize cellphone GPS navigation and music or podcast functions

Over the last eleven years, distracted driving killed an average of six people per month in Missouri, according to the Missouri Department of Transportation.

–Alan Goforth | Metro Voice

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