According to 2007 statistics from the Missouri State Highway Patrol, out of the approximately 48,000 crashes in Missouri due to inattention, 3.8 percent was caused by cell phone use.
Furthermore, a cell phone was involved in 6.1 percent of the traffic fatalities caused by inattention.
Captain Tim Hull of the Missouri State Highway Patrol says cracking down on cell phone use in traffic crashes can be hard.
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|Description: Sometimes it's difficult, too, to say that cell phone was the exact cause of the crash because, in many cases, whether or not the person can tell you that the cell phone was being used at the time or will they tell you at the time, a lot of times it's dependent upon what witnesses see at the traffic crash. And if there's a one-vehicle accident, even if it's a fatality, and the cell phone was a contributing circumstance, and it's a one-vehicle, one-person, how would you ever know?|
Republican Representative Joe Smith is trying to solve this problem with a prefiled bill that would ban hand-held cell phone use while driving. The bill will be one of the first heard next session.
Representative Joe Smith:
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|Description: A lot of individuals who use cell phones are not paying attention to what they're doing. I'm seeing many times where a person's on a cell phone, if the phone's in the right hand on the right ear and they switch lanes in the right lane without looking and they've almost collided with people or they have collided with people. I think it will benefit all drivers in Missouri because it's going to be about safety on the roads, safety driving on the roads. This bill will not take the right to talk on the cell phone in the car. All it tells them is they have to use a hands-free device.|
It's too early to tell how this bill will fare in the legislature, but Smith says he has already received support.
With the upcoming session nearing, Smith's prefiled bill banning hand-held cell phone use in cars could have Missouri's drivers asking a simple question, "To talk, or not to talk?"
Reporting from Jefferson City, I'm Rebecca Layne ... KSMU.