New cell phone restrictions while driving pass Missouri legislature
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (KCTV) - Driving with a mobile phone in hand could soon lead to fines in Missouri.
Missouri legislators passed Senate Bill 398, which included the “Siddens Bening Hands Free Law”, Thursday, which will require all drivers to utilize hands-free cell phone features while behind the wheel. The bill now awaits the Governor’s signature.
Once signed, Missouri will become the 49th state plus D.C. to prohibit texting while driving for all drivers. In Missouri, between 2012 and 2021, there have been 197,564 distracted driving-related crashes that killed 801 people, according to Missouri Coalition for Roadway Safety data.
The “Siddens Bening Hands Free Law” is named in memory of two Missourians who lost their lives in traffic crashes. Michael Bening, 46 of Raymore, Mo., was struck and killed by a suspected distracted driver on I-49 in Cass County in May 2021 while attempting to retrieve debris in the roadway. Randall Siddens, 34, of Columbia, Mo., died from injuries he sustained from being struck by a driver who was video chatting on a cell phone and speeding.
Under the bill, drivers are prohibited from physically holding a cell phone. The bill does allow drivers to utilize GPS navigation and music apps/functions on a cell phone.
The bill contains specific exemptions for drivers communicating in emergency situations and for-hire drivers.
Under the penalty provisions, a first-time violation will result in a fine up to $100. Fine amounts increase, up to $500, for repeat convictions within a two-year period. Additional penalties can occur, including misdemeanor or felony charges if the distracted driver causes a crash that results in significant property damage, serious injury or death.
Once signed by the governor, the bill will take effect on August 28, 2023, however, the penalty provisions will not be enacted until January 1, 2025 to allow adequate time for public education.
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