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Could Missouri finally ban texting and driving? Sort of.

Forty-eight out of 50 states have some kind of law in place banning texting and driving. Missouri and Montana are the only states that permit this dangerous form of distracted driving. Now, in 2023, the Show Me State might finally join the rest of the U.S., though admittedly in a limited way.

The Missouri Legislature recently passed a bill that would tack on extra punishment if someone is caught committing a traffic violation like speeding while also texting and driving. As of this writing, the bill is awaiting Gov. Mark Parson’s signature or veto.

An actual texting ban?

While this would technically make texting and driving a crime on the state’s roads, it would also be one of the weakest anti-texting and driving laws in the country. Other states have outright banned the use of handheld technology while driving and made it a primary offense, meaning police can pull over a motorist they observe breaking the law.

Nick Schroer, R-Defiance and the bill’s sponsor in the state senate, said it balances traffic safety concerns with drivers’ “privacy rights.”

A deadly traffic hazard

If it becomes law, this bill might have some effect on reducing fatal and severe injuries from car accidents caused by distracted drivers. But a distracted driver does not have to be speeding or drifting out of their lane to cause a terrible wreck. Researchers have linked distracted driving with a reduced ability to perceive changing road conditions and poor reaction times. Yet despite being comparable to drunk driving in many ways, criminal law in Missouri does not treat it the same way.

However, victims and their loved ones may have another path to justice. A personal injury lawsuit can hold a negligent distracted driver financially liable for the harm they caused.