At any given moment during daylight hours, more than 800,000 vehicles in the U.S. are being driven by someone using a hand-held cell phone, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Not surprisingly, distracted driving remains among of our nation’s top roadway concerns. In 2019 alone, 3,142 people lost their lives to distracted driving.
For several years now, states have taken action by passing various distracted driving laws. Presently, 24 states, D.C., Puerto Rico, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands prohibit all drivers from using hand-held cell phones while driving. Moreover, 48 states, D.C., Puerto Rico, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands ban text messaging for all drivers.
While states have made progress, experts say there is still much more work to done. With that in mind, legislators in several states are ringing in the New Year by pushing for some new laws aimed at eliminating distracted driving.
Consider, for example, Missouri. It has one of the laxest laws in the country for drivers on cell phones, and nearly a dozen lawmakers hope to change that in the coming months, reports Fox2now.com.
In fact, Missouri is one of only two states in the nation without a law that prohibits drivers from using their cell phones while behind the wheel.
Under state law, only drivers 21 and younger are prohibited from texting while driving, but the law does not even address drivers’ using social media behind the wheel. Moreover, the consequence for breaking the texting law is a mere fine of up to $200 and two points against the driver’s record, reports Fox2now.com.
Some seven lawmakers have filed legislation for the upcoming session to change Missouri law, including a proposal that would allow drivers over 18 to use Bluetooth or hands-free to talk or text, as long as the driver does not have their phone in their hand.
In Iowa, only texting is banned behind the wheel but a new proposal in the upcoming Iowa legislative session could ban the use of all handheld devices while driving, reports KCRG.com.
The goal of the new law is to make Iowa a “hands free” state, but allowing drivers to use Bluetooth or headsets.
Statistics show distracted driving crashes are down since Iowa’s current texting ban took effect in 2017, from more than 12,000 crashes to less than 1,000 last year. Deaths also fell, from 10 to four, notes the report.
Meanwhile in Massachusetts, State Sen. Jo Comerford (D-Northampton) has proposed a law that would ban drivers from recording or broadcasting video while operating a vehicle, reports the Daily Hampshire Gazette.
The current law bans drivers from holding a mobile electronic device in their hands and bans reading texts, viewing images, or viewing video. However, the law could be interpreted to permit drivers to record a video if they are not actively holding the device while driving.
A report from State Farm found that the number of people recording videos while driving more than doubled in the last five years — from 10% to 22% of all drivers, notes the Gazette.
Several safety advocacy groups support Comerford’s bill, which will be considered by the Committee on Rules before it is assigned to a joint committee.