SUNRISE BEACH, Mo. — Texting and driving in Sunrise Beach could land you with a $200 fine.

The Sunrise Beach Board of Trustees unanimously approved an ordinance prohibiting text messaging or other use of hand-held mobile devices while operating a motor vehicle within the Village of Sunrise Beach at their Tuesday, July 10 board meeting.

The ordinance was recommended by Sunrise Beach Police Chief Jeff Campbell in honor of the Weyer family of Sunrise Beach who tragically lost two family members in a head-on crash on the Highway 5 Niangua Bridge, on March 22, 2018.

According to the Missouri State Highway Patrol, 32-year-old Amber Metcalf, of Versailles, Mo. and 33-year-old Jessica Brazil, of Camdenton, Mo., were killed in the head-on crash. The Patrol says Metcalf's Chrysler Pacifica was headed north on Highway 5 when it crossed over the center line and crashed into a Dodge Grand Caravan driven by Brazil. According to the report, the crash occurred on the "land-bridge" portion of the Niangua Bridge on Highway 5, in Greenview. The crash killed both drivers and seriously injured three children who were in the minivan: four-year-old Jordan Brazil, two-year-old Malachi Brazil, and six-year-old Jozlan Pawelczaklister. All three children were transported to Springfield for hospitalization. Malachi ultimately succumbed to his serious wounds and died at the hospital.

“It’s got to stop somewhere,” Connie Weyer, mother of Jessica and grandmother of Malachi and Jordan said.

Sunrise Beach Police Chief Jeff Campbell said he thought the Missouri state law regarding texting was too weak and needed to be changed. Current Missouri law only prohibits drivers under the age of 21 from texting while driving. Weyer and Campbell teamed up to fight for this ordinance. They both said they are open to being advocates to make changes to texting and driving laws at the state level.

The vote

Village trustees unanimously determined that the use of cell phones has caused an increase in accidents and incidents and poses a threat and danger to health, welfare and safety of the residents and visitors of Sunrise Beach.

As of Tuesday night, the following applies to driving and cell phone use within the village proper: 

Except as otherwise provided in the ordinance, no persons operating a moving motor vehicle upon the roadways of Sunrise Beach shall, by means of a hand-held electronic wireless communications device send, read, or write a text message, email or other electronic message.

This ordinance does not prohibit the use of voice activated cell phones to listen to audible delivery of, or to transmit a text message, email, or other electronic message. 

It further does not prohibit the use of cell phones for the purpose of making or receiving hands-free telephone communications. 

This does not apply to a person operating:

  • An authorized emergency vehicle
  • A moving motor vehicle, while using a cell phone device to;
  • Report illegal activity
  • Summon medical or other emergency help
  • Prevent injury to a person or property 
  • Relay information between a transit, or for-hire operator, and that operator’s dispatch, in which the device is presently affixed to the vehicle.

The Arrest

“Officers will have to physically see you looking down on your phone,” Chief Campbell said. “The purpose of this law is to be able to see someone texting and stop them before they harm another driver on the road.”

The Fine 

A violation of this shall be deemed an infraction and shall be punishable by a fine of up to $200.

This will not apply to the following:

  • The operator of a vehicle that is lawfully stopped or parked 
  • Any of the following while in the performance of their official duties: a law enforcement officer; a member of the fire department; or the operator of a public or private ambulance. 
  • The use of factory-installed or aftermarket GPS or wireless communications devices used to transmit, or receive data, as part of a digital dispatch system. 
  • The use of voice-operated technology
  • The use of two-way radio transmitters or receivers by a licensee of the Federal Communications Commission in the Amateur Radio Service.

Chief Campbell said he believes that Columbia and only one other city in Missouri have a similar law. “I hope other municipalities follow Sunrise Beach in outlawing texting and driving,” Weyer said. “If this could save one life and save another family from having to go through what our family has gone through, it is all worth it.”

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