What Is Missouri’s New Texting and Driving Law?

Little more than a decade ago, few motorists considered distracted driving a major threat on American roadways. While distracted driving accidents sometimes occurred in the past due to a driver adjusting the radio volume or applying lipstick, today’s drivers face far greater distractions from their cell phones. These tiny computer devices connect us to the world—often in good ways—but choosing a playlist, setting a GPS, and especially texting and driving are now significant causes of accidents on the roadways. Since 2016, distracted driving has continued to account for almost 10% of fatal accidents each year.

At 55 mph, removing your eyes from the road for only the five seconds it takes to read an average text message means your car travels the distance of a football field while you aren’t looking. The state of Missouri takes texting and driving seriously. Since the end of August 2023, Missouri put new texting and driving laws in place to minimize distracted driving accidents in the state. For help determining the affect a new Missouri texting in driving law will have on you car accident case, contact a Kansas City car accident attorney today for a free consultation. 

What are Missouri’s Texting and Driving Laws?

Missouri has long prohibited minors from texting and driving, but now the state extends the restriction to adults as well. The state’s new hands-free law allows Missouri drivers to use only hands-free technology while driving. Drivers can no longer do the following:

  • Type manually into a cell phone
  • Scroll social media
  • Hold a cell phone while driving
  • Watch movies
  • Make videos
  • Post on social media
  • Make video calls

Only in emergencies may a driver use a cell phone while behind the wheel unless they use hands-free technologies such as Bluetooth, speaker functions, and voice-to-text. Missouri is now the 28th state to implement hands-free technology laws that effectively ban manual texting and driving. Dubbed the “Siddens Bening Hands-Free Law,” the ban on texting and driving was named for two victims of distracted driving deaths in Missouri.

What Does the New Texting and Driving Law Allow?

Does Missouri’s new texting and driving law mean motorists can no longer take advantage of today’s technology while on the road? No, drivers may still use a variety of phone features thanks to innovative hands-free technology. Drivers may still do the following:

  • Use a phone’s hands-free technology to place or take calls
  • Use the built-in speakers or Bluetooth technology to talk on the phone
  • Send text messages through voice-to-text features
  • Use voice-operation features to set the GPS, adjust a playlist, or choose a podcast

It’s important for all Missouri drivers to review their phone’s technology and familiarize themselves with the hands-free features available to them.

Penalties for Texting and Driving in Missouri

Beginning in January 2025, violators of the state’s new testing and driving laws face significant penalties including a $150 fine for a first offense. This fine increases to $500 for subsequent offenses within two years of the first offense. Penalties may increase depending on the severity of the situation.

The law against texting and driving in Missouri is a secondary enforcement offense similar to failing to wear a seatbelt. This means law enforcement officers cannot stop drivers for holding their phones, but may issue citations for texting and driving only when stopping a driver for another traffic violation.