Updated: Apr 18, 2020
Many new laws came into effect across the country on January 1st. We obviously already addressed the new marijuana laws in Illinois, on a previous Underground STL LIVE episode,
but another one I wanted to discuss was the texting-and-driving laws that have been implemented in Florida and Massachusetts. First, let me tell you why.
Look, we’ve all done it. We all said “Just for a quick second” or “I’m doing it the safe way.” However, the truth that we all know, is that it is always distracting you from the road, even if only for a moment. Many transportation studies have concluded that any form of distracted driving will contribute to distracted driving, and thus traffic accidents. We here at Underground STL, want to make sure that we say that any form of distracted driving, while a human act, should be avoided. According to the DMV website, this can also include app usage (i.e. music, maps), personal grooming, eating and drinking. It’s estimated that if you look down for only 5 seconds on the highway, you have already traveled more than a football field in distance.
And of course, you aren’t just worried about you being distracted, but also other drivers who may not be paying close enough attention.
The new laws state that an officer who sees a driver that is texting, whether moving or stopped, can be subject to being pulled over and given a ticket. If they’re stopped – they get a $30 ticket. If they’re moving – they get a $60 ticket. These policies were adopted in the hope that the possibility of a punishment would discourage people from using their phones while in their car. It’s difficult to state with certainty that threatening to punish drivers will effectively discourage them from texting-and-driving. However, it makes logical sense to assume that local and state politicians felt pressure to do more to combat the problem. At least, more than the electric signs with sassy, rhyming slogans to encourage safer driving. (i.e. “Click it or Ticket!” “Get to ya momma’s house alive!”)
Ultimately, the question is this: Should Missouri do something similar to help prevent more traffic accidents? Missouri has, in general, been more libertarian towards societal issues that include personal behavior, such as this one. Many in the state house believe that it isn’t up to the government to regulate an individual’s behavior. For example, in many states, it is illegal to sell alcohol at gas stations, as they do not want to appear to encourage drinking and driving. That is obviously not the case in Missouri, as anyone who stops at a Phillips 66 or Shell can tell you.
The question of whether to enact a law that would make texting-and-driving a ticket-able offense, even while stopped at a red light is interesting. It becomes even more interesting, especially when you consider a legal challenge. By far, the majority of traffic tickets enter a plea of guilty and pay their fine. We think the police caught us fair and square. Speeding is fairly black and white – they caught you going 85 when the speed limit was 70. Pay your fine, but how can they be completely sure when considering texting?
“Oh, no, Officer I was turning my music down.” “No, Officer, I was brushing crumbs off of my jeans.” “No Officer, I was remembering the depressing job I have to go back to on Monday and I hung my head in misery.” “Yes, Officer, I was looking at my phone, but check out how hot this guy/girl is!?”
I’m sure the scenarios and myriad stories would be endless. How can there be dash-cam footage from behind that you were texting? Unless you are one of those extraordinary morons who puts it right up to your face.
Currently Missouri outlaws texting and driving for drivers under the age of 21, and is one of the few states left that does not have a statewide ban on all forms of texting and driving.
Perhaps the better question is not “Should we ticket texters?” but is instead, “What can we do that will effectively make people realize the danger that they are in/putting others in?”. As always, the subject is nuanced and involves more opinions. So, I put it to you, our Underground audience. What can be done to help prevent accidents and deaths that involve phone usage? And should texting and driving be made completely illegal here in the state of Missouri? Let us know what you think guys!