Missouri recently significantly transformed its stance on cell phone use behind the wheel. As one of the last states to implement legislation regulating cell phone use while driving, Senate Bill 398 will continue to shape how drivers interact with their phones while on the road.
Watch the video below as Larry Lambert, Associate General Counsel for Missouri Employers Mutual, explains what these legal changes mean for individuals and businesses.
Understanding the Changes
Under the new law, holding a cell phone to call, text, view, or record video while driving will be prohibited. Instead, drivers are encouraged to use hands-free options, such as Bluetooth connectivity, to maintain communication without compromising safety.
The law became effective Aug. 28, 2023, and citations for violations will be issued starting Jan. 1, 2025. This change significantly impacts the legal landscape surrounding incidents caused by distracted driving.
Impact on Negligence Standards
The legal implications of the new law are twofold. Previously, proving negligence in incidents caused by cell phone use was a complex task. It had to be proven that the driver’s behavior deviated from the norm, effectively confirming unreasonable conduct.
This burden of proof changes with the explicit prohibition of handheld cell phone use while driving. If a driver is found to have been using their cell phone, in their hand, during an incident, it will be easier to establish that they were acting negligently.
Employer Liability and Safety Measures
Businesses with employees who drive as part of their roles are particularly affected by this change. The liability associated with employees using cell phones while driving now falls on the employer. Therefore, businesses need to take proactive steps to mitigate this risk.
Employers should start by:
- Educating employees about the new law and its implications
- Emphasizing that using a cell phone while driving is dangerous,
- Explaining that there can be legal consequences for handheld use
Revisiting and updating safety rules to address cell phone use while driving is highly recommended. Incorporating hands-free cell phone use into safety rules will demonstrate a commitment to road safety and potentially reduce their liability.
As we approach the January 2025 enforcement date, all stakeholders need to familiarize themselves with the changes and take proactive steps to ensure safer roads for everyone.