The Hands-Free Missouri Coalition and supporters of roadway safety across the state worked tirelessly to advocate for distracted driving legislation, which was signed into law by Governor Mike Parson in 2023.
On July 6th, 2023, Governor Mike Parson signed Senate Bill 398, which included the “Siddens Bening Hands Free Law,” which requires all drivers to utilize hands-free cellphone features while behind the wheel. When the law takes effect on August 28, 2023, Missouri will be the 49th state (plus the District of Columbia and all 5 unincorporated organized US territories–American Samoa, Puerto Rico, Guam, US Virgin Islands, and Northern Mariana Islands) to prohibit texting while driving for all drivers, and the 28th state to require hands-free phone use for drivers of all ages behind the wheel. This is a great step forward for our state!
Passage of SB 398 would not have been possible without all the local, state, and national traffic safety-focused organizations, agencies, businesses, lawmakers, and advocates that make up Hands-Free Missouri, Missouri’s coalition that set out to address the growing public safety threat of cellphone-distracted driving. The passage of the Siddens Bening Hands Free Law is the successful culmination of a multi-year, collaborative effort by Hands-Free Missouri, chaired by Taylor March, Executive Director of Missourians for Responsible Transportation.
Passage of a hands-free and no-texting-while-driving law in Missouri has been the top legislative priority for Missourians for Responsible Transportation since our organizational partners BikeWalkKC, Local Motion, Ozark Greenways, and Trailnet identified strategic priorities ahead of our inception in 2018. In our work, we heard from communities across the state that one of the primary reasons people don’t feel safe traveling on our streets–no matter how they choose to get around–is because of the perception that the amount of cellphone-related distractions is increasing, which will lead to dangerous results. Reducing cell phone use while driving and focusing attention on the road will have far-reaching impacts on all Missourians and visitors to the state.
“As Chair of Hands-Free Missouri, seeing so many groups and individuals come together month after month and year after year to work towards the common good has been so exciting. Our coalition is a model for how public policy can be changed to better the lives of all of our neighbors.”–Taylor March, MRT Executive Director
The intent of the law is to ensure drivers understand the inherent risks of cell phone distraction behind the wheel and to provide clear expectations for drivers that will improve roadway safety for everyone. When Georgia adopted a similar hands-free law in 2018, traffic fatalities dropped 7% in the first 18 months, and real-time phone usage while driving fell 22% in the first month. With 2022 being the deadliest year for Missouri roadway fatalities since 2006, with 1,057 lives lost, we also hope to see a reduction in fatalities in Missouri when the new law goes into effect in August.
Under the new Siddens Bening Hands Free Law, while the vehicle is in motion, drivers are prohibited from: