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Texting while driving law now in effect

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Aug. 28, 2009 - A law prohibiting anyone 21 or younger from sending or reading text messages while driving is in effect as of today. The compromise bill passed more than three months ago.

Missouri joins a growing list of states with driving-while-texting bans. The state's version is unique because it targets a particular age group. Much of the debate has been on whether the ban is ageist.

State Sen. Ryan McKenna, D-Crystal City, said in a May interview with the Beacon that "it's odd state public policy to say if you're 22 or older it's a good idea to text while driving...That goes against the whole reason I sponsored the bill in the first place." He had ;drafted legislation to cover all drivers in Missouri but couldn't find enough support for that version of the bill. Look for that comprehensive ban to be floated again in the coming year.

Now much of the conversation is about whether the law is actually enforceable. Law enforcement officials are already chiming in to say that it could be difficult to gauge how old drivers are and whether they are texting or calling someone.

The fine for texting while driving is $200. Drivers who are over 21 can keep texting as usual -- at their own peril.