Texting While Driving Still An Issue

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COLUMBIA - The Missouri Highway Patrol says texting while driving is as big a problem as ever in Mid-Missouri. 

In Missouri, no one under the age of 21 is allowed to text while driving.

In a recent Associated Press article, data showed that few Missourians were being ticketed for texting while driving. But, Missouri Highway Patrol Sergeant Paul Reinsch said it's a very difficult law to enforce.

"Obviously you have to be observing that individual texting while they're operating the motor vehicle," Reinsch said. "The most important thing is we want to educate them to the dangers of it and hopefully they'll make that decision to stay away from doing it."

Reinsch said it can be difficult for officials to know if an individual is at least 21, which would affect their ability to catch someone texting while driving. Reinsch also said differentiating between someone texting and someone dialing their phone can cause problems for officials.

Because of these challenges, Reinsch said the Highway Patrol focuses on preventing texting while driving rather than punishing offenders.

"We're just asking people to either get on the internet and find out the dangers of texting and driving but particularly we want them to talk to their family and friends and tell them some of the stories they've heard," Reinsch said. "If they hear those crashes, it brings it closer to home and hopefully we can keep them from texting and driving."

Local high schools have a similar preventive focus when it comes to educating students. 

Betsy Jones is the Director of Guidance at Rock Bridge High School and helps organize programs to educate students about texting and driving. Both Hickman High School and Rock Bridge have programs that encourage students to be safe and avoid risky behavior.

Jones said she has seen and heard educational efforts work with her students.

"I do know that there are lots of kids who talk about not texting and driving and being safe behind the wheel," Jones said. 

Rock Bridge's Red Ribbon Reality Week focuses on promoting safe and healthy behavior, including not texting while driving. This year, Red Ribbon Reality Week is scheduled for March 18-22 and a calendar of the week's events can be found on the Rock Bridge website.