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Missouri Senate Bill No. 398: Paving the Way for Safer Roads and Strategies to Counter Distracted Driving

At Kendall Law Group LLC,  our dedicated Kansas City Auto Accident Attorneys recognize the profound influence that legislative changes can exert on roadway safety. We are committed to keeping you abreast of these modifications that aim to make our roads safer. Senate Bill No. 398, a bill designed to significantly curb distracted driving in Missouri, is one such change. Having passed the Missouri Senate, the bill now awaits Governor Parson’s signature so it can become law.

The Escalating Issue of Distracted Driving:

The data surrounding distracted driving in Missouri paints a worrying picture. The Missouri State Highway Patrol reported that distractions while driving resulted in 20,000 crashes, 60 fatalities, and over 8,000 injuries in 2022 alone. Senate Bill No. 398, strongly advocated by the Missouri Hands-Free Coalition, is a much-needed remedy to these alarming statistics.

The Missouri Hands-Free Coalition reveals that from 2012 to 2021, there were 197,564 crashes linked to distracted driving, causing 801 fatalities. Other states have observed a 7% reduction in distracted driving incidents simply by enacting hands-free legislation.

Breaking Down Senate Bill No. 398:

Senate Bill No. 398 proposes to limit the use of handheld electronic wireless communication devices while driving, with exceptions for emergencies or hands-free operations. Violations may incur fines and harsher penalties for recurrent offenders. This bill signifies a critical stride in combatting distracted driving.

Upon enactment of this legislation, Missouri will join 49 states and the District of Columbia in prohibiting texting while driving for all drivers. The bill, also known as Siddens- Bening Hands Free Law, honors the memory of two Missourians tragically killed in crashes – Michael Benning and Randall Siddens. Michael Bening, 46 of Raymore, Missouri, was killed in May of 2021, after being struck by a suspected distracted driver on I-49 in Cass County, while attempting to retrieve debris in the roadway. Randall Siddens, 34 of Columbia, Missouri, died from injuries he sustained in a collision with a distracted driver who was video chatting and speeding.

Under the penalty clause of this bill, first-time offenders may face a fine of up to $100.00, which escalates to $500.00 for repeated violations within two years. The bill also imposes additional penalties of misdemeanor or felony charges if the distracted driver causes an accident resulting in significant property damage, serious injury or death.

If signed by the governor, this bill will come into effect on August 28, 2023, while the penalty provisions will be enacted on January 1, 2025, to allow sufficient time for public education.

The Crucial Role of Missouri Hands-Free Coalition:

The Missouri Hands-Free Coalition, comprising various organizations and individuals, has been instrumental in advancing this bill. Their sustained advocacy, public awareness initiatives, and lobbying endeavors have been vital in drawing attention to the perils of distracted driving.

Effective Strategies to Avoid Distracted Driving:

Despite Senate Bill No. 398 marking a momentous step towards road safety, every driver shares the responsibility to reduce distracted driving. Here are some valuable tips from your Kansas City Auto Accident Attorneys:

  • Store your phone out of reach while driving. Use it only after pulling over safely in case of emergencies.
  • Pre-set your navigation and music before setting off.
  • Refrain from activities that might divert your attention from the road, such as eating or applying makeup.
  • Rest if you are feeling fatigued. Drowsiness can be a significant distraction.

Guidelines for Safeguarding Against Distracted Drivers:

Despite your utmost efforts, other drivers’ actions remain beyond your control. Here are some guidelines to enhance your safety:

  • Maintain a safe distance from the vehicle ahead to allow more reaction time.
  • Exercise extra caution at intersections where distracted drivers often cause accidents.
  • Signal your intentions well in advance of turns or lane changes.
  • Stay clear of other drivers’ blind spots, especially those of larger vehicles.

Kansas City Auto Accident Attorneys

As Kansas City Auto Accident Attorneys, our team at Kendall Law Group LLC has witnessed the devastating consequences of distracted driving accidents firsthand. We fully support the passage of Senate Bill No. 398 and applaud the efforts of the Missouri Hands-Free Coalition in their pursuit of improved road safety.

If you or a loved one has been seriously injured in a distracted driving accident, we are here to provide the help you need. Contact us at 816-531-3100 for a free consultation.

Your focus has the power to save lives, and let’s join together to make Missouri’s roads safer.

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