Missouri Senate committee advances distracted driving legislation
The Missouri Senate’s Transportation, Infrastructure and Public Safety Committee voted today to advance a bill that would limit phone-use while driving. The legislation that would limit distracted driving now moves to the full Missouri Senate for debate.
This vote is a major step forward for efforts to pass distracted driving rules. Tuesday’s vote is the first time a distracted driving bill has been approved by a Missouri legislative committee since 2018. This progress is due in large part to the work of the Hands-Free Missouri Coalition, which Trailnet helped launch in 2019 and has been helping organize outreach at the Capitol.
Last week, Trailnet’s policy manager Kevin Hahn-Petruso testified along with victim advocates and statewide partners on the bill during a hearing on the bill:
“We all share some responsibility when we get on the road, whether we’re driving, or walking across the street. But that responsibility isn’t equal. We all have a duty, but the folks with more power and more authority have a greater duty to protect the health and safety of the people on our streets,” Hahn-Petruso said.
“Hands-Free” Legislation: Senate Bill 713
The legislation, sponsored by Greg Razer (Kansas City) restricting distracted driving would improve safety by restricting people from using electronic wireless communication devices (cell phones, smart phones, laptops, and other similar devices) while driving.
However, the legislation allows people to use a device while in “Hands-free mode” if:
(1) it can be used without holding the device
(2) it can be used with the push of a single button, and
(3) it doesn’t take the driver’s attention away from the road.
The bill also allows exemptions for emergency calls, emergency vehicles, navigation, etc.
Distracted driving puts everyone on our roads in danger, but the risk to people walking, biking is even greater. More than 2,500 crashes a year in Missouri involve people using their phones while driving. Likewise, 407 people were killed in crashes involving a distracted driver between 2016 and 2020. Missouri is one of two states without distracted driving rules for all drivers.
How you can help:
Despite this important step forward, progress isn’t guaranteed and there is still lots of work to do.
Please help by contacting your state senators asking them to support Senate Bill 713 and sign on as a cosponsor.
Contact your representatives urging them to support similar distracted driving legislation.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org to get involved with our advocacy work to end distracted driving.
Below is a sample message for the emails or phone calls to lawmakers’ offices. Please take this and make it your own.
Senator/Representative ________ and staff:
My name is ______ and I’m reaching out to urge you to support hands-free legislation to help prevent deaths and injuries from distracted driving.
Distracted driving is a real problem across the state with a real human cost. More than 2,500 crashes a year involve people using their phones while driving. Likewise, 407 people were killed in crashes involving a distracted driver between 2016 and 2020. This has to stop.
I urge you to support SB 713 and similar hands free legislation.
The bill will improve safety by restricting people from using electronic wireless communication devices (cell phones, smart phones, laptops, and other similar devices) while driving. However, the bill allows people to use a device while driving if (1) it can be used without holding the device, (2) it can be used with the push of a single button, and (3) it doesn’t take the driver’s attention away from the road. The bill also allows important exemptions for emergency calls, emergency vehicles, navigation, etc.
You should support this legislation because:
- It will save lives and prevent injuries: similar laws passed in other states led to an average 15% reduction in fatal crashes within two years of passing the law.
- It will save money: the financial costs from these crashes affect individuals, their families, communities, employers as well as insurance costs, lost wages, and the strain on our medical system. According to the FHWA, each fatal Missouri crash caused by distracted driving results in $9.9 million in comprehensive cost, including $1.5 million in economic costs like emergency services, legal cost, property damage and lost wages and benefits.
- It is popular: in a 2020 poll, 69% of Missourians surveyed said they would support hands free legislation.
I hope you support this legislation and would love the opportunity to talk more with you or your staff.