Lawmakers want to change Missouri's distracted driving law

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Missouri has one of the laxest laws in the country for drivers on cell phones, and nearly a dozen lawmakers hope to change that in the coming months.

The Show-Me State is one of only two states in the nation without a law that bans drivers from using their cell phones while behind the wheel. For the third holiday season in a row, a Columbia family is without their husband and dad after he was hit by a driver video chatting.

Randall Siddens was picking up cones after the biking portion of a triathlon race on May 5, 2019 when a car swerved past the police escort and knocked over his coworker, and hit him head-on. 

“This was preventable, and it shouldn’t have happened,” Adrienne, Randall’s wife said. “It just shouldn’t have happened.”

Randall who was 34 at the time, was known by his family as outgoing, selfless, and the best husband and dad around.

“It was after the bike was done. Everyone was off the course and was either running or was done, and they were trying to open the course back up,” Adrienne said.

Randall was a full-time dad but worked on the weekend for Ultramax. Adrienne said, on the day of the race, Randall got to the course at 3:30 a.m. Hours later she received a handful of phone calls from numbers she didn’t know.

“As I’m listening to those, my heart just stops,” Adrienne said. “I made it to the hospital, and he was breathing still. They got him into surgery, and I didn’t see him until after.”

Video from a police officer’s dashcam shows 25-year-old Regine McCracken slamming into Randall before hitting his work truck. Police said McCracken was Facetiming and driving nearly 20 miles an hour over the speed limit when she knocked over Randall’s coworker and hit him. 

“The biggest thing was his head trauma because she hit him going so fast and he flew a good 120 feet,” Adrienne said. “Everything could have been fixed, but his brain injury was just the limiting factor. He could never talk, could never eat.”

Six months after the crash, Adrienne had to make the difficult decision of taking Randall off of life support due to his brain injury, failing kidney, and other complications. At the time of the crash, Adrienne and Randall had been married nine years and had two children under the age of three and was four months pregnant with the third. 

“She was born October 13 and he died Nov. 18,” Adrienne said. “So, he technically did hold her, or she laid on his chest.”

Randall and Adrienne’s oldest daughter Aspen is now 4 years old, their son Declan is 3 and Jemma is 2. 

“It makes you angry and I’m angry too because my kids are young enough they are never going to know who Randall was,” Adrienne said.

Under state law, only drivers 21 and younger are prohibited from texting while driving, but the law says nothing about social media like Snapchat or Facebook. The consequence for breaking the law is a fine of up to $200 and two points against the driver’s record. 

“For many people, there is stil that urge to pick up the phone, look down, type a message out, look at a video and look at an Instagram feed,” Sen. Greg Razer, D-Kansas City, said. 

Razer is one of at least seven lawmakers who have filed legislation for the upcoming session to change Missouri law. Each bill looks to strengthen the existing law, one of the weakest in the country according to AAA.

“My legislation will not allow for literally picking up the phone or a wireless commuication device, look at it and being distracted,” Razer said. 

He said the current law is costing the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) federal money. 

“A couple of million dollars that could be coming into the state to help educate Missourians that we miss out on because our laws are so laxed,” Razer said. 

His proposal would allow Missouri drivers over the age of 18 to use Bluetooth or hands-free to talk or text, as long as the driver does not have his or her phone in their hand. Both Republian and Democrat lawmakers have filed bills for the upcoming session, which starts on January 5, to ban drivers from using their phones while driving. 

“Especially with the bipartisan nature of this legislation, I’m not sure what’s taking so much time to get this passed,” Razer said. “I’m hopeful that this will be the year that we can get it done.”

Missouri State Highway Patrol (MSHP) said distracted driving caused 87 fatal accidents, more than 4,300 injury crashes and 11,000 property damage only crashes last year. 

“Our law is so, it’s just laughable and it’s pathetic, so we have to do better,” Adrienne said. “Nothing moving forward will bring him back but I wouldn’t wish this on anybody. I think something good has to surely come out of it and I don’t know what that good is yet.”

As for McCracken, who hit Randall, she pleaded guilty earlier this year to first-degree involuntary manslaughter along with driving with a suspended license. She was sentenced to 10 years in prison. The judge also said she had four prior convictions for driving infractions and had been given medication after an overnight stay in the hospital before the crash.

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