August 26, 2009 - For immediate release
JEFFERSON CITY -- On Aug. 28, 2009, a new Missouri law will prohibit drivers 21 years of age or younger from sending, reading, or writing an electronic message while driving.
"Young people will be forced to at least keep their fingers off their keyboards while they drive,"said Leanna Depue, director of Highway Safety or the Missouri Department of Transportation. "The law is a small step toward counteracting some of the distracted driving that causes crashes in Missouri."
According to a recent study by Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, distracted driving is the leading cause of traffic crashes in Missouri and nationwide. Eighty percent of crashes involve some form of driver distraction, and teens admit texting is the number one thing that diverts their attention while driving. Half of all teen drivers say they send text messages while driving.
Studies show texting drivers spend up to 400 percent more time with their eyes off the road. "With cars traveling at 70 mph, it is horrifying to realize so many young, inexperienced drivers don't have their eyes on the road," said Depue.
Legislation encouraging these types of laws which ban texting have been encouraged at the federal level with proposals saying states who didn't ban texting could risk losing federal highway funding.
Missouri is the 23rd state to ban texting while driving, but is one of only nine to single out a particular age group. The fine for texting while driving under Missouri's new law is $200. The bill's sponsor was Senator Ryan McKenna.