With traffic fatalities up, is it time to ban texting and driving?

Missouri traffic fatalities are rising, leading to a renewed push to ban texting and driving in the state.

As the St. Louis Post-Dispatch recently reported, traffic fatalities rose in Missouri in 2015 for the second year in a row. The rising number of deaths has led to renewed debate over the need for a texting-and-driving ban in the state. Missouri is one of the few states that does not currently ban texting and driving for all motorists, a fact that some experts say is contributing to distracted driving accidents in the state. In response to those concerns, a number of bills have been introduced by state lawmakers to make texting and driving illegal for all drivers in the state.

Lives lost on the road

In 2015 a total of 853 people died on the state's roads, a dramatic increase from the 766 people who died in 2014 and the first time since 2012 that traffic fatalities in Missouri have exceeded 800. The grim figure also means that 2015 was the second year in a row that traffic deaths increased in the state. The increasing numbers come after traffic deaths reached a modern-era low of 757 in 2013 after near-consistent long-term declines.

The Missouri Department of Transportation points out that many of the deaths last year could have been prevented had drivers and passengers been wearing seat belts. Officials say that 63 percent of those killed last year were not wearing a seat belt. In addition, the department noted that speeding, driver inattention, and impaired driving were the top three causes of fatal accidents in the state in 2015.

Texting-and-driving ban

It is driver inattention and distracted driving that are receiving much of the attention in relation to the growing number of traffic fatalities, especially given Missouri's lack of a texting-and-driving ban. While Missouri currently bans drivers under 21 and commercial vehicle operators from texting and driving, there is no such ban for all other drivers. Missouri is one of just four states, along with Arizona, Montana, and Texas, that does not have a blanket ban on texting and driving.

According to KOMU 8 News, however, that lack of a ban could soon change. Three state lawmakers recently introduced a bill that would prohibit texting and driving for all drivers, except when text messages were being composed and sent via a voice-activated system. Supporters of the ban note that distracted driving is estimated to cause 20 percent of Missouri motor vehicle accidents, leading to thousands of injuries and dozens of deaths each year.

Motor vehicle accidents

Anybody who has been hurt in an accident, especially one that may have been caused by a distracted or inattentive driver, should contact a personal injury attorney immediately. Victims of motor vehicle accidents should know that they have legal options, including the possibility of pursuing financial compensation from any at-fault driver. A personal injury attorney can help injured victims understand their rights and give them advice about what steps to take next.