Missouri bill addresses road safety issues

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 4/19/2010

The Missouri Senate has approved a bill that addresses safety issues on roadways. Provisions included in the bill address truck lane restrictions, speed traps and text messaging.

Sponsored by Sen. Ryan McKenna, D-Crystal City, the bill would boost penalties for large trucks found in violation of lane restrictions in St. Charles County.

A two-year-old Missouri law limits trucks with a registered gross weight in excess of 48,000 pounds from the far left lane of “urbanized” roadways with at least three lanes of traffic in each direction. Violators face up to $200 fines.

The bill would increase penalties in St. Charles County to as much as a $300 fine and 15 days in jail. If a violation “causes the immediate threat of an accident,” the penalty would escalate to as much as a $500 fine and six months in jail.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association and many Missouri truckers fought the lane restriction effort in 2008. OOIDA is opposed to lane restrictions for any class of vehicle.

A separate provision in the bill would revise the “Macks Creek law” limiting the amount of general operating revenue a town or city can receive from traffic violations to 35 percent.

The law was named after a community in Camden County. In 1994, the town of Macks Creek reportedly received 75 percent of its budget from traffic tickets. A year later, Missouri lawmakers approved legislation limiting the amount of traffic fine revenue municipalities can keep.

McKenna’s bill would expand the Macks Creek law to prohibit communities from making 35 percent of its general revenue from moving and nonmoving violations.

Texting while driving is another issue included in the lengthy bill. Currently, it is illegal for drivers 21 and younger in Missouri to read, write or send text messages while operating a vehicle.

The bill would expand the ban to cover all ages.

“Last year’s law was a start to end this dangerous practice on our roadways, but it did not go far enough,” McKenna said in a statement.

There are 22 states that prohibit texting while driving for everyone. The feds have gone a step further by singling out truck drivers. Early this year, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood made text messaging while driving off-limits for commercial drivers.

Another bill that is in the Missouri House also includes the texting ban. In addition to the effort to curb distracted driving, a separate provision in the bill from Rep. Rodney Schad, R-Versailles, would outlaw speed cameras.

Governments in the state would be forbidden from the use of automated speed enforcement cameras. Exceptions would be made for cameras to be posted in construction and school zones. Warning signs would be mandated within 50 feet of cameras.

Critics of automated enforcement say the problem with the cameras is that they can’t prove who’s driving the vehicle. In addition, this method of traffic enforcement disregards a person’s Fifth Amendment rights and forces self-incrimination.

Supporters of the equipment say it acts as a deterrent and helps snare speeding drivers who otherwise might not get caught. Opponents, including the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, question the claim that cameras are intended solely to keep people safe.

Schad’s bill – HB1205 – has advanced from committee and is awaiting clearance to be considered on the House floor. McKenna’s bill – SB781 – is in the House Transportation Committee.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Missouri, click here.

Editor’s Note: Please share your thoughts with us about the legislation included in this story. Comments may be sent to statelegislativedesk@ooida.com.

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