Town Square Distracted Driving

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COLUMBIA - Mid-Missourians have mixed feelings about distracted driving, according to a Town Square survey by KOMU 8 News.

Results were all over the board on three questions: What can lead to distraction behind the wheel; whether there is support for the City of Columbia ban on distracted driving; and if a statewide ban is a good idea.

Opponents questioned the legality of the bans and whether they could be enforced. Supporters say such bans make the roads safer.

Crash survivor Kaylin Bubach said she knows that first hand.

“I just don’t want other people to have to go through what I did. If we can just put the phone down, I think that would help save and help not injure a lot of people,” she said.

Bubach, of Russellville, said a traumatic car accident led to her support of a statewide ban on texting.

“I fell asleep in the passenger seat and the next thing I know, I woke up to three days in the hospital,” Bubach said.

Two years ago, Bubach let her friend drive her car late at night so she could take a nap. Her friend ran into a tree going close to 85 miles an hour.

“My mom told me that she got my police report and my friend was texting and driving. She admitted to texting and driving and going well over the speed limit. She said she veered off and then we impacted a tree,” Bubach said.

While her friend sustained minor injuries, Bubach ruptured her small intestine and broke her back. She said if it were not for her seatbelt, she would not be alive to tell her story.

Opponents of the bans question whether they really do make roads safer.

The City of Columbia successfully passed its ordinance in December banning distracted driving. It includes behavior such as eating, putting on makeup or reading a map. Survey respondents gave mixed reactions to the ban.

Joy Jackson, a mother of three, said the ban is unnecessary.

“I answered the way I did on the survey because I felt the law was a ridiculous law,” she said.

Jackson is a partner at a law firm, and said she often has to juggle her time between work and her children. She said she is in the car often, whether it be for work trips or taking her children to school.

“Sometimes I get to work and I feel like I’m starting a second day because I’ve already done so much by the time I’ve gotten there,” she said.

Jackson said a lot of people's daily lives happen in a car, and it is impossible to be distraction free. She said people are not only distracted by cell phones, but  children, passengers, the radio, the gauges and more.

“It’s not necessary because we already have a legal obligation to operate our motor vehicle in a care and prudent fashion, and if you do not and you cause harm, even if that is a traffic violation, there are already consequences under the law to punish you for that,” Jackson said.

Most of the survey respondents were against the Columbia's ban for various reasons, but those who support it use words like "vital" and "wonderful."

One person said  “the entire state needs to do it.”

But like Jackson, those who oppose it are vehement.

One person said “it should be overturned at the State Supreme Court level.”

Another respondent said, “there are bigger things our officers should be worrying about,” and others similarly questioned if this should be a priority for Columbia police.

Twelve respondents specifically said the ban would not do enough to combat distracted driving. One person said, “it misses the mark, it should be taken as serious as drunk driving.”

Nine people used the word “vague,” and one said, “the ordinance is worded rather broadly, and may have problems holding up in court.”

Survey respondents cited a lot of things that distract them the most. Cell phone usage was the most common, mentioned by with 97 of 107 people. 

30 respondents said passengers are likely distractions, while 26 mentioned eating or drinking. Other common distractions include changing the radio station and putting on makeup. Some people also mentioned reading road signs, picking something up, getting sleepy behind the wheel and weather.

Of the 97 respondents who mentioned cell phone, 36 percent said texting was the main concern and 10 percent said phone calls were. Others mentioned checking emails, playing games and using a GPS app as distractions.

Seventy-five percent of survey respondents said they would support a statewide ban. Currently, Rep. Rory Rowland, D-Independence, is sponsoring a bill in the Missouri House that would ban texting and driving for drivers of all ages. The next house hearing has not yet been scheduled.

The survey showed distracted driving is not a heavily partisan issue. Democrats, Republicans and Independents were fairly evenly split on survey questions.