A new report ranks Missouri near the bottom of all states for driver safety laws, at a time when distracted driving is happening at a high rate.
Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, a national roadway safety coalition, has released a new report ranking states on how many of 16 key safety laws each state has in place.
Missouri is tied for third-worst in the rankings, with only four of 16 laws in place. Neighboring states fare better: Illinois is tied for seventh best with 10 laws, and Kansas is tied for the 14th-best state with nine laws in place. (Rhode Island tops the list with 13 laws, while South Dakota comes in last with only two laws.)
This comes at a time when distracted driving is widespread. According to State Farm surveys of driver behavior: 79 percent of drivers said they participate in some sort of interaction with their phone while driving (talking, texting and/or smartphone functions).
Some Missouri legislators are taking action. In the current legislative session, two bills have been proposed in the Missouri House (HB 50 and HB 74) that would prohibit use of hand-held wireless devices by all drivers (current law only bans texting for drivers under 21), and another proposed bill (HB 68) would ban cell phone use in school zones. Prior efforts to pass such bills have failed.
The laws Missouri lacks include primary seat belt enforcement, child seat laws, stronger provisions in the state Graduated Driver License program, an open container law, and text messaging restrictions for all drivers, the report found.
The annual economic cost to Missouri from motor vehicle crashes is more than $5.5 billion, according to the report.