Distracted or Drunk Drivers in Missouri

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When it comes to keeping distracted drivers and drunk drivers off the road, Missouri, the “Show-Me” state, is showing most other states how not to do it.

Missouri is rated at the bottom for a number of traffic safety measures by a leading safety advocacy group.  In January, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety (Advocates), a group of private and public interests whose mission is to prevent car and truck crashes, published its annual “Roadmap of State Highway Safety Laws.” This 18th edition is a comprehensive look at the current driving dangers and state laws designed to curb them.

The report is based on final 2019 fatal motor vehicle crash data, as well as early preliminary data for last year.

How to Prevent Fatal Commercial Truck Crashes

The organization notes that more than 5,000 people were killed in semi-truck crashes in 2019, a jump of some 48% since 2009. To reduce the number of fatal large truck accidents, Advocates calls for the trucking industry to adopt several safety measures, including:

  • Speed limiters for 18-wheelers
  • Stronger rear and mandatory side trailer underride guards
  • Better entry-level driver training
  • Screening for obstructive sleep apnea in truck drivers

Fatal Crashes Caused by Distracted Drivers

But the primary focus of the report is on factors that lead to fatal car crashes and steps that states can and should be taken to reduce them. Two primary causes of catastrophic motor vehicle accidents addressed in this report are:

According to Advocates, more than 3,100 people were killed in a crash with a distracted driver in 2019. That’s about a 10% increase over 2018.

The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration provides many examples of distracted driving:

  • Driver distracted by eating or smoking
  • Driver distracted by speaking with other people in the car
  • Driver distracted by adjusting radio or GPS

A primary cause of distracted driving today, however, is the cell phone.

Commercial truck drivers are barred by federal law from driving and using a hands-held cell phone. The NHTSA reports that drivers who look at a text take their eyes off the road for 5 seconds. It’s estimated that vehicles traveling at 55 mph, including a fully loaded tractor-trailer, can travel the length of a football field in that time.

Advocates also notes that those driving while using their cell phones are just about as impaired as those drivers approaching the legal limit for alcohol.

So it’s in this context that the report details each state’s laws to combat distracted driving and spotlights how Missouri’s laws are woefully inadequate.

Missouri’s Driving and Texting Laws

In the report Missouri is one of only three states given the lowest rating possible – “Red” or “Danger” – for distracted driving laws. Montana and Nebraska join Missouri in the bottom three.

Missouri and Montana are the only two states to not completely ban texting and driving. Only Missouri drivers 21 years-old or younger are prohibited from:

  • Driving while sending a text
  • Driving while reading a text
  • Driving while writing a text

But Missouri drivers 21 and younger are allowed to drive and talk on a cell phone.

The report also details the dangers of drunk drivers, noting that impaired driving is responsible for about 30% of all traffic deaths in the country. One drunk-driving death was recorded on average every 50 minutes in the United States in 2019.

Advocates found that Missouri comes up dry for laws combatting drivers under the influence of alcohol.

While not in the Red category for drunk-driving laws, Missouri is placed in the second worst ranking – “Yellow” or “Caution” – for a lack of stringent actions to combat deadly DUI accidents. Only 10 other states hold the Yellow ranking.

Missouri’s laws against distracted driving and drunk driving may be deemed lax, and many safety advocates rightfully call for stronger measures. But the responsibility for any catastrophic crashes caused by these negligent drivers still should primarily rest with them.

If you were severely injured or had a family member die in a crash caused by someone else, contact a car accident lawyer, who can help identify the chain of careless and negligent behavior involved.

The choice of a lawyer is an important decision that should not be based solely on advertisements.

Authored by Gray Ritter Graham, posted in Articles March 10, 2021

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