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Tennessee Passes New Law on Cell Phone Use While Driving

Tennessee recently passed a law making it illegal to hold a cell phone while you drive. This law aims to shrink Tennessee’s enormous rate of deaths by distracted driving.

Distracted Driving in Tennessee

Tennessee has the highest rate of distracted driving deaths in the U.S., five times higher than average, and this law seeks to prevent these deaths by limiting the ways drivers can use their phone while driving.

We’ve written previously that distracted driving played a role in almost 10% of fatal crashes in 2010. In 2017 alone, 3,166 people died in accidents involving distracted driving according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

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What Does the Law Prohibit?

According to the official website, this law, which came into effect on July 1, 2019, makes it illegal for drivers to:

  • hold a cell phone or mobile device with any part of their body,
  • write, send, or read any text-based communication,
  • reach for a cell phone or mobile device in a manner that requires the driver to no longer be in a seated driving position or properly restrained by a seat belt,
  • watch a video or movie on a cell phone or mobile device, and
  • record or broadcast video on a cell phone or mobile device.

Tennessee is the 19th state to pass such a law according to Knox News.

If someone breaks this law once, he or she will be fined $50. If someone breaks it three or more times, they will be fined $100. If it happens in a work or school zone, the fine will be $200. Also, those who break traffic laws like this will be given points on their driving records, which could result in a suspended license.

Are There Exceptions?

Paramedics, emergency officers, etc. are exempt from this law while, “in the actual discharge of their official duties.” People can also call emergency services like the police or fire department while driving, if they’re in an emergency.

Also, according to the Tennessean, “Drivers are allowed to use GPS to navigate.” Although they can’t touch it. “If the phone is mounted on the vehicle's dashboard, windshield or center console, drivers can use one swipe or tap to turn a feature on or off.”

You can also listen to music as long as there is no video on the screen and you don’t touch the phone.

Hands-Free Cell Phone Use Isn’t Better

This law is a much needed deterrent for a state with far too many preventable deaths by distracted driving, but does the law go far enough? The new law bans looking at your cell phone, but according to the website, you can still use voice-based communication to send a text. But is such voice communication any safer?

Not according to an article by the Washington Post which said, “It’s every bit as dangerous to speak into a mobile device that translates words into a text message as it is to type one.” People feel like voice control is safer, but it is not.

Likewise, an article in Psychology Today states, “Text messaging and conversing on either a handheld or hands-free cell phone while driving slows reaction time more than being drunk or high."

If You Were Injured by a Distracted Driver

If you were injured by a distracted driver call Bart Durham Injury Law 24/7 for a free consultation. Our Nashville auto accident attorneys have years of experience, and we can help you get compensation for your hospital bills as well as pain and suffering. 

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