Brett Blume

ST. LOUIS (KMOX) –  Missouri Department of Transportation Director Kevin Keith is fed up with seeing fellow drivers talking or texting on state roads and highways.

“Just drive around and take a look…see how many people have got a phone stuck in their ear,” Keith told KMOX News. “It’s a problem we need to deal with.”

And so lawmakers have been contemplating more than a half-dozen bills this session that would stiffen the ban on using smart phones behind the wheel.

Most of the bills seek to ban text messaging by all drivers in Missouri, not just those 21 and under as current law states.

A general distracted driving bill has been filed as well.

More than midway through the session, the Senate has considered both of the distracted driving bills before it.

The House says it has conducted several public hearings.

During an event in St. Louis County Monday to kick off National Work Zone Awareness Week, Federal Highway Administrator Victor Mendez added his voice to the call for action.

“At U.S. DOT safety is our number-one priority,” he announced. “The Secretary has put a very strong focus on distracted driving. Trying to drive while texting or talking on the phone is very, very dangerous.”

And it can be deadly, according to statistics from the Missouri State Highway Patrol showing that nearly one-in-three of the 140,000 crashes on state roads in 2011 involved some form of driver inattention.

Recent efforts to amend the current ban have come up empty.

Last year the Missouri House approved a plan to remove the “21 and under” restriction from the current texting while driving law, but time ran out on the bill.


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