JEFFERSON CITY — Texting while driving on Missouri roads will remain legal for most adults.
When Missouri's legislative session began in January, there appeared to be broad bipartisan support to extend the state's current youth-only ban on texting while driving to all motorists.
But the legislation failed to pass before the session ended Friday. A House committee chairman said there were too many unanswered enforcement questions about expanding the ban.
It's already illegal in Missouri for drivers 21 and younger to read, write or send text messages while operating a vehicle.
Public Safety Committee Chairman Mark Bruns, R-Jefferson City, had several bills enter his committee to apply the ban to all adults, but none of those bills moved further than an initial public hearing.
Bruns said it is too difficult to enforce the text messaging ban, noting it can be hard to determine a driver's age. Instead of broadening the law to all drivers, Bruns said he would prefer to get rid of it completely.
"Too many questions remain on how to enforce it properly," Bruns said.
Bruns questioned how using a cell phone to send text messages is different from using a geolocational device or putting on makeup while driving. "Are we going to outlaw all of that?" Bruns said.
But Sen. Ryan McKenna, who championed the 2009 texting ban for young drivers, doesn't agree with the comparison.
"People are steering with their knees, looking down at their laps and being distracted," McKenna, R-Crystal City, said. "The number of people who are texting and driving is almost an epidemic in this country."
McKenna said the original age restriction was a compromise, and next year he will keep trying to extend the law to include everyone.
"It makes horrible public policy to say if you are 22 or older, it is safe to text and drive," he said.
Missouri State Highway Patrol officials said 28 texting-while-driving tickets have been issued by the patrol since enforcement started in September 2009.