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Jim Weible has seen the extreme consequences of texting while driving.
Earlier this year, a friend of the St. Louis County resident was driving and texting without wearing a seat belt. Weible’s friend, 21-year-old Bond Rho, was driving alone through north St. Louis County when he veered off the road, hit a pole and was thrown from the car. He was killed instantly.
“The fact that something like this could happen to a guy that young, a guy I had known that long, it made the statistics you see on the news a lot more real,” Weible said.
According to a study by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, drivers take their eyes off the road for an average five seconds to send a text.
Driving at 55 mph, that’s traveling beyond the length of a football field without looking at the road.
Some legislators, including Sen. Chuck Purgason, R-Caulfield, said people need to make these kinds of personal decisions about what they do when they drive on their own.
Sen. Ryan McKenna, D-Jefferson County, said he disagrees with Purgason and sponsored a bill to expand Missouri’s ban to include all drivers.
“My example is when I first started driving, after I passed the driving test, somebody gave me a miniature typewriter and told me to start typing on it while I drive the car, you would have thought I was crazy,” McKenna said.
McKenna said his bill is currently stuck in the state’s legislative process and that a similar bill is proposed in the House.
Since 2009, it has been illegal in Missouri for anyone under the age of 22 to text while driving. Captain Tim Hull, spokesperson for the Missouri State Highway Patrol, said the age restriction makes it difficult for officers to enforce the law.
But, Hull said, drivers who text typically make visible mistakes that get them pulled over by officers, such as veering into another lane of traffic or driving too slowly.
From August 2009 to December 2010, the Highway Patrol issued more than 80 tickets for texting while driving.
Under Missouri’s current law, Bond Rho’s texting was illegal, but one year later he would have been 22 and legally allowed to text while driving.