The Missouri Legislature banned texting while driving for persons under the age of 21 in 2009.

Since that time, a number of other bills have been proposed that would expand the texting and driving ban to all ages and establish tougher penalties. None of them passed, including two which were introduced this year.

Missouri is one of only six states to allow drivers over the age of 21 to text and drive legally.

That is remarkable when you stop and consider the close calls all of us encounter on a regular basis with distracted drivers who are texting. You see it all the time. And it is not just young people.

Missouri legislators need to wake up. Texting while driving is one of the biggest concerns on the roadway today — it doesn’t matter who is doing the texting — it is still just as dangerous.

How dangerous? A growing body of evidence suggests that driving while texting is as dangerous as driving while drunk.

A study released earlier this summer conducted by New York’s Cohen Children’s Medical Center found that more teenagers now die annually from texting while driving than die from driving under the influence of alcohol.

The study said this makes texting while driving the leading cause of death among teens. That stands to reason, since teens text a lot more than they drink. The study’s author isn’t surprised. “The reality is kids aren’t drinking seven days per week — they are carrying their phones and texting seven days per week, so you intuitively know this is a more common occurrence.”

Other surveys show that a high percentage of teens and adults admit to routinely texting while driving even though laws prohibit it.

It’s time to crack down on texting and driving and make it illegal for persons of any age.

Moreover, we need stricter and broader laws that would, at a minimum, equate distracted driving, by definition, to careless and imprudent driving.

Repeat offenders should have their licenses suspended and, if necessary because of multiple violations, revoked.

Ignoring this problem is inexcusable.