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Measure would make Missouri a 'hands-free' state

The Siddens Bening Hands-Free Law was named in honor of two Missourians who lost their lives in distracted-driving-related crashes.

ST. LOUIS — April is National Distracted Driving Awareness month, and lawmakers in Jefferson City are tackling a measure that would make Missouri a “hands-free” state.

The Siddens Bening Hands-Free Law was named in honor of two Missourians who lost their lives in traffic crashes.

Michael Bening was struck and killed by a suspected distracted driver in May 2021 while attempting to retrieve debris in the roadway. Randall Siddens died in May 2019 after he was struck by a driver who was video chatting and speeding.

The drivers who struck them were suspected of being distracted behind the wheel.

AAA, the Missouri Department of Transportation and other organizations are advocating for Senate Bill 56/61, which would strengthen Missouri's existing texting and driving law. Under the bill, drivers are prohibited from holding an electronic device, typing or reading texts, participating in video calls and watching a movie. Voice-activated communications would remain allowed.

The measure is scheduled for an executive session Tuesday in the Missouri House Special Committee on Public Policy,. The bill could be heard and voted on by the full Missouri House this week. If it passes, it heads to the Gov. Mike Parson's desk.

In a release from AAA, Siddens' widow explained why sharing his story is so important to her.

“If his life and story can help impact somebody,” she said, “I think that’s what he would have wanted – something positive to come out of a tragedy.”

AAA reported that in a 10-year period starting in 2012, more than 800 people were killed in Missouri by distracted driving-related crashes.

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