Distracted driving in Missouri: Recent study and proposed law

A recent study found distracted driving increases ten percent during the summer months.

Travelers, an insurance company, recently conducted a study on distracted driving. The study found drivers are most likely to use their phones while driving in the summer months. Researchers with the study report drivers spend an average of 15 minutes of every hour driving looking down at their phones during the months of June, July and August.

This translates to a 10 percent increase in this form of distracted driving compared to other months of the year.

Data collection: How did the researchers conduct their study?

The study involved the review of over 20,000 drivers and spanned from January of 2017 through May of 2018. Researchers gathered data through use of a telematic platform. The platform provided a free distracted driving mobile application that used sensors to gather data on when a person was using his or her phone while driving.

Researchers then classified the data into one of two categories: active or passive. Researchers defined active use as phone use that required a driver's active attention. Examples include making a phone call, texting or using a social media application like Facebook. Passive phone use included apps that did not require the driver's focused attention, like a music or global positioning system (GPS) app.

Impact of the study: What does this mean for those who live in Missouri?

The results of this study are important to Missouri drivers. Missouri has some of the more lenient distracted driving laws in the country. Currently, Missouri state law only prohibits texting and driving for drivers that are under the age of 21. The lack of a law restricting the use of cell phones while driving in Missouri combined with the researcher's findings could make the roads in Missouri especially dangerous during the summer months.

Lawmakers are considering a change. Republican Senator Bob Dixon recently introduced a proposal to the Senate Transportation, Infrastructure and Public Safety Committee that would result in a full ban on the use of cell phones while driving. The proposal states violations will result in a monetary fine.

Currently, 47 states have a ban on texting and 15 have a ban on the use of hand-held phones while driving. If passed, this proposal would help bring Missouri in line with these other states.

Distracted driving accidents: What about those injured in a crash?

Drivers are required to operate their vehicles with care. Even if the law noted above does not pass, a victim of a distracted driving accident can argue a driver that chooses to text or otherwise use a cell phone while driving is not operating his or her vehicle with care. This can be used to build a personal injury case against the driver and lead to a monetary award for the victim.