ST. LOUIS — Missouri drivers will no longer be allowed to hold their cellphones while behind the wheel under a new law Gov. Mike Parson signed Thursday. 

The “Siddens Bening Hands Free law” prohibits all drivers from manually typing, scrolling, or holding their cellphone while driving, according to a press release by AAA. 

Senate Bill 398 allows drivers to use hands-free features, including talk-to-text, Bluetooth, or speaker functions to talk, send messages and use navigation. There are some exceptions, including emergencies.

The law takes effect Aug. 28, 2023, making Missouri the 28th state to require hands-free use for drivers of all ages. It is also the 49th state to prohibit manually texting and driving, according to the press release.

The law is named after two Missourians who both died in car crashes. Randall Siddens, 34, died after being struck by a driver who was video chatting on a cellphone and speeding, according to the press release. Michael Bening, 46, was struck and killed by a suspected distracted driver while trying to retrieve debris in the roadway.

“This law is a practical, commonsense measure that will reduce the number of Missourians who senselessly lose their lives each year to distracted driving on our roadways,” said Angela Nelson, AAA Missouri Vice President of Public Affairs and Government Relations.


Under the new law, while the vehicle is in motion, drivers are prohibited from:


  • Physically holding or supporting a cellphone with any part of their body

  • Manually typing, writing, sending, or reading text-based messages

  • Recording, posting, sending or broadcasting video, including video calls and social media posts

  • Watching a video or movie


The new law does allow drivers to:


  • Place or receive voice calls utilizing voice-operated or hands-free functions that can be engaged/disengaged with a single touch or swipe

  • Talk on the phone, hands-free, utilizing features like built-in phone speaker, in-car Bluetooth, or ear bud/headset

  • Send or receive text-based communication through voice-to-text features

  • Utilize cellphone GPS navigation and music or podcast functions

The Missouri Coalition of Road Safety reports there were 382 fatalities involving a distracted driver between 2017 and 2021. 

A first-time violation will result in a fine of up to $150 and can increase up to $500 for repeat convictions within a two-year period. Additional penalties can occur depending on the incident. Penalties won’t start until Jan. 1, 2025.

The law is classified as secondary enforcement, similar to Missouri’s seat belt law. The classification means an officer can only write a citation after stopping the vehicle for another infraction. 

‘The new policy still makes it unlawful to hold a cellphone behind the wheel and we believe most people want to follow the law and will adjust their driving habits to be safe and responsible drivers for themselves, their passengers and all other road users,” explains Nick Chabarria, Public Affairs Specialist for AAA of Missouri.