Study: Crashes up despite texting laws

Texting while driving is illegal in Missouri for drivers under 22.

A recent study published by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found that cell phones are reported as the causes of more accidents despite anti-texting while driving laws.

The study could have major implications as more than 30 states around the country, including Missouri, have passed anti-texting laws.

Despite the results, the Missouri State Highway Patrol is going to continue to crack down on drivers less than 22 years old who are breaking the anti-texting law. The law states that texting while driving is illegal for all drivers 21 and younger.

In a recent news release, Col. Ronald Replogle of the state highway patrol explained the importance of following the anti-texting law.

"If you’re focused on sending a text message, then you aren’t paying attention to your driving," he said in a statement. "These accidents are easily preventable if drivers would simply put down their phones and focus on the road.”

The patrol is taking to the roads to remind motorists of the law and its consequences. Stickers with the campaign logo will be attached to all patrol vehicles.

“We just want to encourage all drivers, regardless of age, to stop texting while driving to help make Missouri’s highways safer for all motorists,” Replogle said in the statement.

State Rep. Mary Still, D-Columbia, is a strong supporter of the anti-texting bill and would like to see the law expanded to all drivers.

“I feel like this (texting while driving) is something we need to discuss,” she said. “This is an issue of public safety, of road safety. This is what government is supposed to do and tries to do. To improve public safety and with that, I think it would be a major improvement of public safety to see this law expanded to all drivers, of all ages.”

Some MU students also feel texting while driving is dangerous.

“I really hate seeing people texting and driving, especially when I'm driving near them,” sophomore Alissa Smith said. "I know that they're probably unaware of everything going on around them."

But, Smith also said she sometimes sends text messages while driving.

“With that said, I sometimes commit the same crime, but only when I'm at a stoplight or on the highway," she said. "I am aware that it's still incredibly risky.”

Freshman Sarah D'Amico said she doesn’t text because she pledged not to with Oprah Winfrey’s No Phone Zone pledge.

“I don’t text and drive anymore because I saw how big of a distraction it was when I used to," D'Amico said. "I also took Oprah’s no texting while driving pledge.”

Some 400,000 other drivers across the country have taken the pledge.

According to the Highway Patrol, in 2009, cell phone usage while driving resulted in more than 1,780 traffic crashes in Missouri. In the first part of this year, more than 791 traffic crashes related to the use of cell phones behind the wheel resulted in eight fatalities and 239 injuries.

In the end, Still said, texting is still against the law for drivers under the age of 22 in Missouri.

“It’s against the law,” she said. “Just don’t do it.”

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