The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

April 11, 2013

Other Views: Missouri lagging

The St. Louis Post Dispatch

— Thank your Missouri legislators for engaging the state in yet another embarrassing race to the bottom.

This time it’s laws regarding texting while driving. As in, Missouri doesn’t have any, at least not for drivers over the age of 20. See, it’s teenagers who are the problem.

Missouri is one of only 11 states that has not enacted a total text-messaging ban for drivers. This despite a horrific texting-while-driving-accident in Missouri in 2010 that led the National Transportation Safety Board to call for states to enact tougher anti-texting laws.

Two people were killed in the accident, a pileup that included two school buses on Interstate 44 near Gray Summit. The NTSB said after an investigation that the accident was set in motion by a rear-end collision involving a pickup driven by a 19-year-old man who had sent or received 11 text messages in the 11 minutes before the crash.

So let’s get this straight — an accident in Missouri has prompted 39 states and the District of Columbia to ban texting for all drivers, but not in Missouri? What’s wrong with that picture?

That failure to protect Missouri’s drivers is part of a pattern. The Show-Me State was one of the last in the country to make it illegal to drive with a blood-alcohol content of 0.08 percent or above. Missouri held out for the 0.10 percent blood-alcohol standard until it was threatened with the loss of highway funds. And then there is our embarrassing record on seat-belt laws. Missouri is one of the few states that does not have a primary seat-belt law, which means that an officer here can write a ticket for failure to wear a seat belt only if the driver has been pulled over for another offense.

Sen. Ryan McKenna, D-Crystal City, was one of the legislative leaders who tried to ban texting while driving. He said Monday that even the cellphone industry was in favor of the legislation.

But the majority of Missouri’s lawmakers opposed it, saying they “thought it was a nanny-type of law,” McKenna said. ...

Texting and driving is not the most critical issue facing legislators, but it is symbolic of the phony tactics that are used to stir conservative voters. Speed limits and drunken-driving laws and seat-belt laws protect all drivers. Voters who care about good government and reject fear-mongering should start voting for legislators who will stand for the greater good.

The St. Louis Post Dispatch