Our Opinion: Comprehensive ban needed on texting while driving

A ban on texting while driving deserves to be enforceable and comprehensive.

Missouri’s existing law is a half-baked approach — texting while driving is prohibited only for motorists younger than 21.

A proposal in the Senate — sponsored by Sen. Robin Wright Jones, D-St. Louis — perpetuates an incomplete approach. Her bill would criminalize the practice for all motorists, but only as a “secondary” violation.

A secondary violation — an example is Missouri’s seat belt law — prevents law enforcement officers from stopping a vehicle for the specific violation. Officers must have a separate reason to stop a vehicle to be able to enforce a secondary violation.

We align with members of the Senate Transportation Committee who questioned the secondary provision.

“I don’t understand why we’re making this a secondary law,” said Sen. Ryan McKenna, D-Crystal City, “because the way the law is now, for anyone 21 and under, they can be pulled over.”

Added Sen. Kevin Engler, R-Farmngton: “I think secondary seat belts is the worst law that we have on the books. We don’t have any other law where a state patrolman can see somebody breaking the law and not enforce it ...”

Diluting proposals to gain approval is a legislative reality.

It is an unfortunate reality and, in this case, a deadly one.

We appreciate complaints of “nanny” government proscribing behavior.

We also understand texting while driving is not the only distraction for motorists.

But texting while driving diverts both mental and manual attention. People are dying as a result of activity rarely necessary or urgent.

Make texting while driving a primarily violation for every motorist.

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