KANSAS CITY – Missouri’s hands-free driving law went into effect Monday, prohibiting drivers from using any electronic device, i.e. phones, while behind the wheel, unless it's connected to a bluetooth or similar system.
"Missouri had one of the weakest distracted driver laws in the book," said Nick Chabarria, with AAA. "This law will let Missouri catch up with 28 other states that also have hands-free laws."
Under new law SB398, law enforcement will only issue warnings to drivers until January 2025 if they're caught with a phone in hand. However, if drivers are pulled over for another other traffic violation, they can be ticketed.
"The law is secondary enforcement, similar to (the state's) seatbelt law," said Chabarria, "You can't get pulled over just for violating that law, the officer has to see you violate another law."
Drivers can still use their phones for GPS directions and for phone calls, as long as it's mounted or part of a hands-free system. And it's still legal to use your phone to report a crime, medical emergency or crash.
"Missouri's old law says it was only illegal to text and drive," said Chabarria, "Of course, it's difficult to determine if someone is texting or using their maps or something like that. This law clearly spells it out."
Fines range from $150 for the first offense up to a maximum $500 for a third.