Texting and driving regulations making little progress at the Capitol
COLUMBIA - Five bills addressing texting while driving were introduced into the Missouri legislature this session, but none had passed as of Thursday.
Each of the bills, four from the House and one from the Senate, were aimed at prohibiting all persons, regardless of age, from texting while driving.
Rep. Nate Walker, R- Kirksville, sponsored one of the House bills. He said it could take years before one of the bills passes.
"I think it's taking longer than what we like," Walker said, "but the legislative process is slow."
Walker said the House bills combined for a public hearing earlier in March, and he said he hopes one can make it out of the committee stage by the end of the session.
"As far as getting it to the governor's desk this time, it probably isn't going to happen," Walker said.
Walker said the Missouri Senate could be a roadblock for moving the legislation through the Capitol this year.
"We have two Houses to deal with, and this year, the Senate has been operating in a little more of a dysfunctional situation," Walker said. "They've had filibusters, and certainly the rate of success this session has been in the House of Representatives."
Sen. Jill Schupp, D-Creve Coeur, sponsored the Senate bill, and she said there was some opposition within the Senate concerning the bill.
"One Senator has strong objections," Schupp said. "He believes this will result in more lawsuits and will be difficult to enforce."
Walker said people have approached him with concerns about the status of the bill, and he said he wants to move it through as quickly as he can.
"I think there's a sense of urgency any time you have an issue you feel compassionate for," Walker said. "I think it's good legislation. I'm wanting to move it forward."
Walker said the legislation is important because he says it could save lives and make roads safer. The Missouri Department of Insurance said 80 percent of crashes in Missouri involved distracted driving. Furthermore, teenagers made up 13 percent of fatalities from distracted driving, more than any other age group.
"We should get this done soon," Schupp said. "People's lives can be saved and serious injuries avoided when people know that texting while driving is breaking the law."
Apart from introducing stricter laws, other organizations have worked to decrease distracted driving in different ways. An event scheduled for Hickman High School Thursday morning would involve students using virtual reality seminars to experience the effects of distracted driving.
Walker said simulations like the virtual reality experience can impact students' decisions to not text and drive.
"When students, adults or anybody gets behind an impact-indicator simulator like that, they're going to see results of it," Walker said. "I think that's a very good, tactical use of the technology."