HANNIBAL, Mo. -- The Northeast Coalition for Roadway Safety is urging all drivers to put the cellphone down this year.
The regional alliance, which is part of the Missouri Coalition for Roadway Safety, works to reduce traffic fatalities. A news conference was held Thursday at the Missouri Department of Transportation Northeast District office to announce the coalition's latest campaign, "New Year, No Texting and Driving: One Resolution to Live by in 2018."
"Texting while driving is becoming an epidemic. People know it's not safe, but they still do it," said Marisa Ellison, MoDOT Northeast District communications manager.
To help illustrate the severity of the problem and provide tips on how to prevent distracted driving, the coalition gathered various community leaders and residents to discuss it.
"The (coalition) and concerned citizens such as myself are suggesting a resolution that is much easier and can make our population healthier and safer," Dr. Mathew Strasser of Hannibal Regional Medical Group said of not texting and driving. "As a result, more people will live by breaking this habit."
Samantha Diffenderfer, a new mother, said she fears that distracted driving by others will lead to a vehicle collision while her daughter, Mallory, is in the car.
"Please help me and my department reduce traffic crashes by not texting and driving," Palmyra Police Chief Eddie Bogue said. "We can't do this alone, so we ask for your support."
The coalition provided statistics on how texting and driving has affected Missourians. Between 2014 and 2016, there were 12 fatalities and 43 people seriously injured in crashes caused by texting and driving, the coalition said. Most of the crashes involved drivers between the ages of 15 and 39.
"We are all about reducing fatalities to zero," Ellison said. "There are several texting ban proposals in the Missouri Legislature this session, and we are supportive of any legislation that helps achieve zero fatalities caused by texting and driving."
Currently, it is illegal for drivers 21 years old and younger to use a cellphone while driving. Missouri is one of only three states that does not have some sort of texting ban for drivers of all ages.