April 5, 2012

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How to Address Distracted Driving
There has been lengthy discussion this year regarding texting while driving. Several ideas have been put forward to balance safety with freedom. Senate Bill 717 would create the offense of distracted driving. You may recall, toward the end of last year, a national debate was growing over texting while driving. Part of the talk came after a fatal accident near St. Louis, where a man was texting while driving at the same time that he hit a school bus in a construction zone on I44. The federal government then came along, saying texting while driving needed to be curbed. Its solution was to outlaw not only texting while driving, but using a cell phone for any reason while operating a motor vehicle. It went after truck drivers specifically. The outcry was tremendous against this type of a “nanny state” approach. I have said, all along, that education is key. Years ago, we were told how important it is to not be distracted while driving. This was drilled

into kids’ heads when they were learning how to drive and then earned their permits. In the last 30 years, drivers’ education courses have become almost obsolete. Along with this, I have found more people reading, texting and doing all sorts of things when they should be focusing on the road while behind the wheel. This is where Senate Bill 717 came into play, simply by reiterating the need for driver safety. We see more vehicles on the roads, all different sizes and shapes. You have seen it before: A car passes you on the road and it is driven by someone who is talking on the phone, changing radio stations and eating — all at the same time. This is risky behavior. We all know it. It endangers the driver, any passengers in the vehicle, and any other vehicle on the road at the same time. The question becomes, “How do we curb this type of behavior?” The federal government wanted to step in and fine dump truck drivers so severely that they would go bankrupt with one violation. This is not a real solution. We cannot ignore this increasing danger, especially given how many folks now have some sort of handheld mobile device. Government is not the solution to this dilemma, as it never is. What we need to do is remind young drivers that they should put the cell phone down. Whatever news flash or text they are getting can wait until they reach their destination, whether it is across the state or across town. If we cannot remind people of a little common courtesy, then the government is going to step in and do it for us. This is not a viable solution. We all need to drive responsibly and allow technology to catch up in safety where it has with communication. I have considered “distracted driving” and “texting while driving” law reforms in the past,

but believe it should be a matter of personal responsibility, not government intervention. Senator Stouffer serves the counties of Carroll, Chariton, Cooper, Howard, Lafayette, Macon, Ray, Saline, and a part of Clay. If you have questions or comments about this or any other issue, please call toll free (866) 768-3987 or by e-mail at bstouffer@senate.mo.gov.
bstouffer@senate.mo.gov | www.senate.mo.gov/stouffer State Capitol, Room 332, Jefferson City, MO 65101 | (866) 768-3987

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