COLUMBIA — On July 9, Gov. Jay Nixon signed into law a bill, which was originally introduced by Rep. Scott Lipke, that makes sending, reading and writing text messages while driving illegal for people 21 and younger.
Starting Aug. 28, Sgt. Shelley Jones, traffic unit supervisor for the Columbia Police Department, and her traffic unit will be able to pull over anyone 21 or under that they see texting while driving in the car.
Rep. Joe Smith, whose own attempts to push through legislation limiting hand-held cell phone use failed, said he thinks the new law slipped through without the usual opposition because it only applies to people 21 and younger.
Sen. Ryan McKenna, who introduced his own bill this session limiting text messaging while driving, said, "the House was uncomfortable with the bill without the age restriction."
McKenna’s bill addressed text messaging in the car and passed in the Senate with a vote of 31-3. The bill then stalled in the House Public Safety Committee.
When asked about McKenna's bill, one of the three dissenting voters, Sen. Jason Crowell, said that the law, nicknamed the Careless and Imprudent Driving law, is an umbrella law that covers dangerous behaviors in the car, Crowell said.
“We currently have a statewide catch-all with the (Careless and Imprudent law),” he said. “I am opposed to texting, but if we go down this route, we’re going to have to pass a law for every behavior that is not wise to do while driving.”
Smith plans to continue fighting for all-age legislation, as well.
“A lot of the time in Jefferson City, you have to crawl before you can walk,” McKenna said. Of a bill applying to all ages, he said, “I plan on proposing it again next year.”
What do you think of the texting-while-driving law?