Missouri Texting and Driving Laws

It’s estimated people sent more than 1 trillion texts worldwide last year. Teens are responsible for the vast majority of texts sent and teen drivers are responsible for 13% of fatal car accidents in Missouri. Missouri is the 23rd state to ban the use of texting while driving. Texting and driving is a dangerous practice and people face stiff penalties for using a phone behind the wheel in Missouri.

The Law

Cell phone calls are legal for drivers of all ages in Missouri. As of January 2012, bus drivers could no longer use hand-held devices while driving. Although, as of August 28, 2013, Revisor of Statutes State of Missouri Section 304.820 bans text messaging and all other use of hand-held mobile devices while operating a motor vehicle for drivers 21 or younger. The law does not apply to drivers over the age of 21.

Text messaging includes sending, reading, or writing electronic texts or emails. The law, sponsored by Sen. Ryan McKenna, reads: Any person 21 years of age or younger who operates a moving motor vehicle while sending, reading, or writing a text or electronic message by means of a hand-held electronic wireless communications device will be guilty of an infraction.

Missouri is the ninth state to single out a particular age group. The new law applies only to those drivers between 16 and 21 based on studies that show this age group experiences more crashes than any other. Many called for expansion of current laws to include drivers of all ages, not just those within the highest-risk age group. Anyone that texts and drives is putting themselves and others at risk. Drivers operating commercial motor vehicles already abided by this law, regardless of age.

Cell-phone use while driving laws include texts, emails, instant messages, and accessing Internet sites to send electronic messages. Hand-held electronic devices include cell phones, smartphones, tablets, or other devices used to communicate. The law does not apply to any devices installed as part of the motor vehicle’s original design. If the driver stops or lawfully parks the vehicle, he or she may use a cell phone for text messaging. The law also permits the use of voice-operated technology or hands-free devices.


The consequences of violating the texting and driving law is a fine of $200 and two points against the young driver’s license. While Missouri’s cell phone laws are not as strict as some states, punishments for drivers who violate the law are substantial and have long-term repercussions. Ticketing police officers can also add citations for reckless driving, etc., to charges when ticketing for texting and driving. Liability for all damages is likely when investigators find and prove cell phone use as the cause of a traffic accident.

Insurance companies can cancel teen drivers’ insurance policies for having an accident, causing them to lose their insurance coverage. This inhibits their ability to drive as drivers must have liability insurance.

Accidents caused by distracted driving can raise insurance rates by at least 50% for three to seven years if the insurer doesn’t cancel the policy. For minor moving violations such as a speeding ticket, the average is about three years before rates begin to drop.

Enforcement Issues

Lack of cell phone law enforcement have not done much to deter distracted driving. However, the threat of legal punishment and rate hikes are not the only repercussion. Texting while driving is a form of negligence. Police officers often apply congruent citations. Only 44% of the teens surveyed in the state say they request a driver to stop texting.

Self-enforcement and compliance with traffic laws is the only surefire way to ensure the safety of all road travelers. If you suffered an injury in an accident and suspect texting and driving was the cause, you could potentially receive damages. Contact our personal injury lawyers in Kansas City to learn more about your legal options.


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