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Missouri legislature passes bill banning texting while driving

Cars drive west on Interstate 64 on Wednesday, Feb. 23, 2022, in St. Louis, Missouri.
Brian Munoz
St. Louis Public Radio
Cars drive west on Interstate 64 in St. Louis in 2022.

Missouri may finally prohibit texting while driving.

Lawmakers approved legislation Thursday that includes punishments if someone is texting while driving and committing another traffic offense, such as speeding or running a stop sign.

The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Nick Schroer, R-Defiance, said the ban is more measured than those in other states.

“You can still have your device, whether it's a map or if it's music,” Schroer said. “But if you're going to cross the center line or if you're going to break other laws? Yes, you could be pulled over and you could have that used against you. But just simply having it on your lap or in your hand or in your pocket — it's not going to be a violation on its own.”

Schroer added that a police officer can only go into someone’s phone if there’s a car accident that results in injury.

“So it's protecting the privacy rights of the individual, while at the same time letting the public know: ‘Hey, let's not text and drive,’” Schroer said.

Rep. Jim Murphy, R-South St. Louis County, said he’s been getting numerous requests from constituents to stop people from driving while they’re on their phones.

“We've had some so many tragedies with deaths where people are just distracted, they're not looking on the road,” Murphy said. "And they're just killing people. We as a state are the 49th state to do this. It was time.”

Missouri and Montana are the only states that don’t have a complete ban on texting while driving.

“There's a lot of people that think it's somehow imposing upon our freedom,” Murphy said. “But I don't believe it's an imposition on your freedom when you're actually doing something that jeopardizes the people around you. And it's knowingly.”

Schroer said the language was able to satisfy “freedom lovers.”

“And when we tried to find a way to fix this and try to deter people from partaking in distracted driving or careless and imprudent driving, I thought this language was the best that we could get,” Schroer said.

The bill also authorizes car buyers to pay their sales taxes at a dealership as opposed to a license office. Murphy said this could cut down on people who drive cars on expired temporary tags.

The bill now goes to Gov. Mike Parson’s desk.

Jason is the politics correspondent for St. Louis Public Radio.