Is it Illegal to Text and Drive in Missouri?

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Rachel Weinhaus, Attorney

For many years it has been illegal for minors to text and drive in Missouri. However, starting August 28, 2023, that law will extend to Missouri adults. On July 7, 2023, Governor Parsons signed the “Siddens Bening Hands Free law” which prohibits all drivers from manually typing, scrolling, or holding their cellphone while driving. The law allows drivers to use hands-free features, including talk-to-text, Bluetooth, or speaker functions to talk, send messages and use navigation. There are some exceptions, including emergencies.

The law makes Missouri the 28th state to require hands-free use for drivers of all ages. It is also the 49th state to prohibit texting and driving (without the use of speech-to-text), leaving Montana as the only remaining holdout to allow texting and driving.

The law is named after two Missourians who both died in car crashes. Randall Siddens, 34, died after being struck by a driver who was video chatting on a cell phone and speeding, according to the press release. Michael Bening, 46, was struck and killed by a suspected distracted driver while trying to retrieve debris in the roadway.

Missouri texting and driving laws

Under the new law, while the vehicle is in motion, drivers are prohibited from:

  • Manually typing, writing, sending, or reading text-based messages
  • Physically holding or supporting a cellphone with any part of their body
  • Recording, posting, sending or broadcasting video, including video calls and social media posts
  • Watching a video or movie

The new law does allow 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 earbud/headset.
  • Send or receive text-based communication through voice-to-text features.
  • Utilize cell phone GPS navigation and music or podcast functions. The Missouri Coalition of Road Safety reports there were 382 fatalities involving a distracted driver between 2017 and 2021.

Consequences of texting and driving in Missouri

A first-time violation will result in a fine of up to $150 and can increase up to $500 for repeat convictions within a two-year period. Additional penalties can occur depending on the incident. Penalties won’t start until Jan. 1, 2025.

The law is classified as secondary enforcement, similar to Missouri’s seat belt law. The classification means an officer can only write a citation after stopping the vehicle for another infraction.

Texting and driving is dangerous for several reasons:

  • Distraction: Texting while driving diverts your attention away from the road and requires cognitive, visual, and manual focus on the phone. This reduces your ability to notice potential hazards, react quickly, and make safe driving decisions.
  • Slowed Reaction Time: Engaging in texting or reading messages takes your eyes and mind off the road, leading to slower reaction times in critical situations. This delay can be the difference between avoiding an accident and causing one.
  • Decreased Awareness: When texting, your focus is on the phone’s screen, leading to “inattention blindness” where you may not notice important details on the road, such as traffic signals, pedestrians, or other vehicles.
  • Impaired Judgment: Texting impairs your ability to assess risks accurately. You may underestimate the danger of your actions or overestimate your ability to multitask, leading to risky behavior.
  • Reduced Control: Typing or holding a phone while driving can result in decreased vehicle control, especially during maneuvers that require both hands on the wheel.
  • Increased Crash Risk: Studies have shown that texting while driving significantly increases the likelihood of accidents and near-miss incidents, posing a danger to yourself, passengers, and other road users.
  • Legal Consequences: Texting while driving is illegal in many places due to its proven dangers. Engaging in this behavior can lead to fines, points on your driving record, and even license suspension in some jurisdictions.
  • Social and Economic Impact: Car accidents caused by texting and driving can result in injuries, fatalities, property damage, increased insurance costs, and a burden on emergency services and healthcare systems.

To prevent accidents and prioritize road safety, it is essential to avoid using your phone while driving. If you need to communicate or use your phone, pull over to a safe location or use hands-free systems that allow you to keep your focus on the road. Remember, no text or notification is worth risking lives on the road.

Texting and driving has always been dangerous, but only now has the law caught up to the reality in Missouri. If you or a loved one have been injured or killed as a result of someone’s negligent driving while operating their cell phone, you may be eligible to receive financial compensation. Getting started is easy. Get help from our legal team by calling us at 888-795-0694 for a free consultation, or get in touch with a distracted driving attorney in St. Louis or Kansas City by requesting a free case evaluation online. And remember, there’s no upfront cost to you — if you don’t get paid, we don’t get paid.


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