Safety advocates have been saying for years that smartphones and other devices are dangerous distractions for drivers. They may be especially dangerous for younger drivers.
According to one recent study, distracted driving was a factor in almost 14% of Missouri motor vehicle accidents in 2017. Statewide, the accident rate that year was about 13 accidents per 1,000 residents, but for drivers ages 21 and younger, the rate was 43 per 1,000 residents.
Researchers have looked further into reports of distracted-driving crashes and found that communication devices were among the leading sources of distraction. Phones and other communication devices were factors in 12.4% of the distracted-driving crashes in 2017, second only to the vague category of "external distraction," which was implicated in 20.3% of these accidents.
Missouri prohibits drivers 21 and younger from texting while driving. Violators can receive a $200 fine and points against their license. Currently, Missouri is one of just a handful of states that doesn't prohibit texting while driving for all drivers, but the state legislature is considering expanding the law.
It's important to note that, in a personal injury lawsuit, texting while driving can be considered negligence whether or not it was illegal for the driver to do it. Drivers have a duty to others to avoid unreasonable accident risks, and they breach this duty when they take their eyes off the road to look at a phone or tablet. When they injure someone else as a result of this kind of breach, they can be held liable for the damages they caused to the injured.