Missouri drivers not immune from problem of distracted driving

Twenty years ago, the idea that everyone would have a cellphone would seem like a stretch. However, the age of ubiquitous mobile devices is upon us. For all of the convenience and good that mobile technology has brought us, it has also brought a new danger that plagues roadways both in Missouri and nationwide-distracted driving.

When you have driven down the road, you may have noticed drivers performing odd tasks while behind the wheel such as text messaging, talking on the phone or putting on makeup-all are forms of distracted driving. Although research has consistently shown the dangers that distracted driving poses, many drivers have failed to get the message.

Distracted driving has become such a problem that the government has a dedicated website devoted to the issue, distraction.gov. The website highlights many sobering facts about distracted driving such as:

  • More than 15 people are involved in fatal car accidents and 1,200 are injured every day because of distracted driving.
  • Driving while using a cellphone reduces the brain's ability to focus on driving by 37 percent.
  • Texting while driving takes the driver's eyes off the road for an average of 4.6 seconds-enough time to drive the entire length of a football field if the car is traveling 55 miles-per-hour.
  • Texting while driving increases the likelihood of being in a car accident by 23 times.

The unfortunate result of the reckless danger than distracted motorists pose can be found on Missouri roads every day. In 2011, distracted driving killed 153 and injured 10,017 people in the state.

Missouri law and distracted driving

Although many states have made texting while driving and handheld cellphone use a primary offense, Missouri has not followed suit. State law only prohibits drivers who are under 21 years of age from using a handheld device (such as a cellphone) to read, send or write a text messaging while operating a motor vehicle. Although the legislature considered at least seven distracted driving bills during its 2012 session, none of them came to a vote.

Even though the legislature has failed to criminalize distracted driving, it does not mean that distracted drivers get off scot-free. Under Missouri law, drivers who cause a car accident while they are texting while driving or are engaged in other distracting behavior can be considered negligent, making them civilly liable for damages caused by the accident such as medical bills, pain and suffering and lost wages.

Until the law or good conscience makes people put down their cellphones while behind the wheel, the danger to innocent motorists is likely to persist on roadways nationwide. If you or a loved one have been injured by an inattentive driver, contact an experienced personal injury attorney. An attorney can advise you of your right to compensation and work to hold the responsible party accountable for their actions.