Our Opinion: Simulator raises awareness, fails to stimulate action

Some state lawmakers had difficulty concentrating Tuesday.

A simulator challenged them to drive safely while texting on a cellphone.

“It’s very, very dangerous,” concluded state Rep. Donna Lichtenegger, R-Jackson, after simulating the experience of texting while driving. “It affects every sense that you have, and you can’t concentrate on the road ...”

The simulator was brought to the Capitol by AT&T as part of the “It Can Wait” campaign to raise awareness of the dangers of texting while driving.

The communications company’s campaign also includes advertisements displaying the unfinished texts of people who were killed or injured texting while driving.

In Missouri, texting while driving is prohibited for motorists younger than age 21.

That prohibition, according to a recent story in the Columbia Missourian, is seldom enforced.

Fewer than four citations a month have been issued since the law was passed in 2009, according to the newspaper. In addition, the Missourian’s review of court records found no punishments for violating the law in nearly half of the state’s 114 counties.

While the toll of death and injury connected to texting and driving continues to mount, Missouri lawmakers appear content to maintain the status quo — a prohibition that applies to a fraction of Missouri motorists, is rarely enforced and more rarely punished.

We understand that texting while driving is not the only form of distracted driving. It does, however, divert both mental and manual attention, and it rarely is necessary or urgent.

Although the simulator may be raising awareness among legislation, it is not stimulating much legislation to extend the prohibition to all Missouri motorists.

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