In August 2009, reading, sending or writing text messages while driving became illegal for anyone under age 21. Section 304.820, RSMo
It’s easy to understand why messaging is dangerous while driving, but it’s hard to see why it’s more dangerous than sorting your CD collection or putting on lipstick in the rear-view mirror.
My thought at the time was that the only way to get convicted of this offense would be to confess to it. Otherwise, it’s difficult to prove you were texting (as opposed to starting a phone call or looking for an address or surfing the internet).
[Teenager tip: Don’t text and drive, but if you get stopped for texting, do not confess. DO NOT CONFESS.]
A recent St. Louis Post-Dispatch article noted that in the first five months the law was in effect, the Missouri Highway Patrol has issued just 13 tickets for the offense statewide, resulting in eight convictions. That might as well be ZERO.
The fact that the law has proven useless is not likely to stop another 20 states from joining the dozen states that already have the ban in place. Lawmakers–recognizing that the law is unenforceable–note that it raises awareness of the danger. It’s sort of like the Missouri seat belt law: basically unenforceable, but lawmakers get to be seen on the side of the angels.
Lest the bosses at the Capitol building give themselves too much credit for “raising awareness,” they should recognize that most of us wear seat belts because it’s safer, not because it’s illegal.
This may all be moot, however, since Congress is considering making the bans universal. If Missouri’s $200 fine does not stop this behavior, perhaps time in federal prison would scare us all straight. For our own good.