In August of 2009, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon signed House Bill 62, creating a new law that banned texting while driving for state residents under the age of 21.
Those who have been caught violating this law were fined $200 and received 2 points on their license.
However, there was one major flaw in the new law; how could police officers practically enforce it? Police officer Darin Hickey of the Cape Girardeau Police department said that he was not able to locate a single ticket issued by the city for this offense, calling it an "extremely difficult statute to enforce."
Under this law, a police officer must determine if what the driver is doing on their phone is actually texting and then must judge the age of the subject. However, the latter part of the issue may soon be resolved.
Democratic Senator Ryan McKenna sponsored the 2009 texting ban and is now pushing for legislation to remove the age limit on the law. Congress is currently deliberating on his bill as well as many others that were proposed by its members during the 2010 session.
According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, in 2009, 5,474 people were killed in car crashes that reportedly involved a distracted driver. Of those distracted drivers, the age group with the highest average was 30 to 39-year-olds. In 24 percent of these cases pertaining to this age group, cell phone distraction was the cause.
Officer Hickey said that although the texting ban can be difficult to enforce, the Cape Girardeau Police Department will continue to do so. "The police department is definitely for any statute that is going to keep people safe," he said.
"Texting has been proven to be distracting to drivers," Hickey said. "Educating motorists about safety is a big thing."
Education is the main focus of distracted.gov, the Official US Government Website for Distracted Driving. On this site, visitors can view statistics about distracted driving cases involving cell phone use as well as view videos from families that have been hurt by someone texting while driving.
There are also several cell phone applications on the market that can prevent or reduce distracted driving. Some include a text-to-speech feature that reads your messages aloud, a GPS device that can block messages and calls when it detects the car in motion and a setting that holds incoming messages during a time or distance set by the driver.
Daniel Seabaugh, a junior at Southeast Missouri State University, is over the age of 21 but still agrees with the legislation to remove the age limit from the texting ban.
"I think it's great," he said. "One time I was looking at my phone, it was dark, and almost hit a car parked on the side of the road. It changed me from looking at my phone, much less texting while driving. I can see why it can be very dangerous."