JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Missouri has one of the loosest laws in the country when it comes to texting and driving, but that will change in the near future.
Holding a phone to text, call, or perform other tasks while driving in Missouri will be considered illegal under SB 398. The legislation takes effect Monday as the Siddens Bening “hands-free” law.
In 2019, one family from Columbia, Missouri, received a phone call no one wants to get. Randall Siddens, a father and husband, was struck while picking up cones after a triathlon race by a driver who was video-chatting.
Since then, Adrienne Siddens has been coming to the Missouri Capitol and advocating for a law to prohibit drivers from using their cell phone while driving.
“She ended up swerving to miss the police officer, then ended up crashing into Randall and the back of the cone truck,” recalled Adrienne. “He was thrown about 120 feet through the air, and he suffered a lot of injuries because of that.”
Randall, who later died from his injuries at the age of 34 years old, is remembered by loved ones as outgoing and selfless. Now he’s one of two men who an upcoming law in Missouri is named after.
“We would much rather prefer to have our husbands here than to have a law,” said Adrienne. But they’re gone, there’s nothing we can do to bring them back. What can we do moving forward? How do we move forward? We move forward by sharing their stories, by helping bring positive, helping other families not lose loved ones.”
As the new law takes effect Monday, Missouri is one of the last states that didn’t ban most adults from texting while driving.
“We know that inattentive and distracted driving is one of the leading causes of crashes each and every year in our state,” said Capt. John Hotz with the Missouri State Highway Patrol.
The law allows people to use their phone through other options, like using headphones, bluetooth or voice-to-text services. Activities such as reading text messages, recording a video and posting to social media, so long as they involve your hands on the device, will become illegal behind the wheel.
Violating the hands-free law would be deemed a secondary violation, so law enforcement can only write a citation for texting while driving if the driver was stopped for something else, like not wearing a seat belt.
“We see that roughly nine out 10 people wearing their seat belts,” said Hotz. “If we can get the same compliance with this law, that would significantly reduce the number of crashes we’ve been seeing.”
Adrienne says she’d like to see holding your phone while driving become a primary violation, but she’s glad one law is on the books.
“It’s for safety,” said Adrienne. “Like, you don’t want to be the one that causes the accident, and you don’t want to be the one who gets the phone call that your loved one was in an accident.”
Even though the law goes into effect Monday, only warnings will be written for the first 16 months. Starting in January 2025, a first-time violation will result in a $150 fine.