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Missouri’s “hands-free” law is starting off with a warning period

On Behalf of | Apr 17, 2024 | Traffic Offenses

Missouri remained among the states with no law against using a hand-held cellphone while driving until last year. While the new “hands-free” took effect last summer, Missourians have had a long time to adjust their behavior before actually being cited for talking or texting while holding their phone.

Law enforcement officers won’t be ticketing people for the offense until 2025. Even then, it will be considered a secondary violation. That means that a driver will only be cited if they’ve also committed some other offense, like speeding. Even when the law fully takes effect next year, it will still be less strict than those in a number of other states where drivers can be cited solely for using a hand-held device while driving.

Until next year, drivers caught holding any electronic device or supporting it with their body (for example, holding it in their lap while they talk), typing or watching a video will receive a warning. There are exceptions when using a phone for GPS purposes or to make an emergency call.

Why it’s smart to abide by this law before it fully takes effect

The new law followed nearly a decade in which the state experienced almost 200,000 crashes blamed on distracted driving and over 800 fatalities caused by those crashes. According to the National Safety Council, cellphone use is also the cause of more distracted driving collisions than this data shows.

That’s why, regardless of the law, it’s still smart to place your phone in a secure holder if you need to use it while you’re driving. Of course, newer vehicles allow people to make and receive calls and texts through their infotainment systems. Even doing that can be distracting. Just having your mind on a conversation or a message takes away from your concentration.

Besides the safety issue of driving while holding a phone, it’s also never a good idea to give law enforcement officers any reason to pull you over, even if it’s just to give you a warning. That can potentially lead to a citation for a more serious traffic violation or potentially even to an arrest.

If you’re facing a traffic violation or a criminal charge, it’s smart to have legal guidance before you admit to anything – and certainly if you aren’t guilty. Don’t underestimate the importance of protecting your rights.