MO Statehouse
4:47 pm
Wed March 2, 2011

Mo. House committee considers 3 texting bills

A Missouri House committee heard three bills today that would extend the state's texting-while-driving ban to all motorists.

But the bills differ in how the law would be enforced.

Under current law, the texting ban applies only to drivers age 21 and younger, and police don't have to pull someone over for another infraction first - in other words, primary enforcement.

The bill sponsored by State Representative Mike Colona (D, St. Louis) would expand the ban to drivers of all ages, but would also downgrade the infraction to secondary enforcement.  He says the law as currently written could lead to both criminal and racial profiling.

"You're riding down the highway," Colona told the House Crime Prevention and Public Safety Committee.  "You see a car next to you, somebody's maybe looking down, maybe they're looking to the side, maybe they're playing with their phone...I mean, that's a criminal defense lawyer's dream, from the standpoint of, 'Yeah, pull me over!  Charge Me!'"

The second bill being considered would extend the texting ban while keeping primary enforcement in place, a move supported by the Missouri State Highway Patrol.

Colonel Ron Replogle also told the committee that the age requirement makes the current law difficult to enforce.

"It's hard to judge the age of a person at 70 miles an hour driving down the roadway," Replogle said.  "Okay, it's a younger driver, but is he 22 or 20?  That's hard to judge."

A third bill would expand the texting ban, but would exempt those who use hands-free, voice-recognition texting devises.

The committee plans to craft one compromise bill from among the three before holding a vote.