Improving Driver Safety in Tennessee By Reducing Cell Phone Use

In the age of smartphone technology, distracted driving is a reality of day-to-day life. Whether communicating with family and friends, responding to urgent work requests, or simply checking the news, drivers in Tennessee and throughout the country increasingly use their smartphones to connect or entertain themselves even while driving.  In recent years, Tennessee has enacted several laws to reduce smartphone usage on the road, but with mixed results. Now, the Tennessee legislature aims to get tougher on smartphone usage and driver safety.

Currently, Tennessee law prohibits drivers from texting or emailing while on the road, but it does not ban cellphone use entirely. Drivers who violate these laws face up to $50 in fines plus court costs. In reality, however, Tennessee police officers frequently report that it is difficult, if not impossible, to catch drivers in the act of texting or emailing. Even if drivers are caught in the act of holding their phone while driving, they can simply claim to be dialing a number or checking traffic, neither of which are illegal under Tennessee laws.  Since police officers can rarely confirm what a driver was doing on their phone prior to being pulled over, the practical effect means that infractions for texting or emailing are rare.

In contrast to the rare enforcement of Tennessee’s texting and emailing laws, the number of accidents and deaths in Tennessee as a result of cellphone usage on the roads has skyrocketed in recent years.  As of 2013, one of the most recent years for which statistics are available, Tennessee led the nation in fatalities resulting from cellphone use, with over 1,300 accidents in 2013 alone.

In response to these sobering statistics and the difficulties in police enforcement, the Tennessee legislature is currently considering a new law that would ban handheld cellphone usage while driving in the state. This step is not unprecedented, and similar laws have been enacted in at least 14 other states and the District of Columbia. Under the new bill, Tennessee residents would be permitted to make or receive phone calls while driving, but only if they use a hands-free device. Texting, emailing, or any other use of a phone requiring one’s hands would be banned under the bill.  According to proponents of the new hands-free bill, this would make it significantly easier to enforce cell phone restrictions, fine irresponsible drivers, and improve safety on Tennessee roads and highways.

The bill, which is sponsored by Representative John Holsclaw, is likely to be introduced as early as January 2016 and could be made law as early as 2016 or 2017.  If implemented, it would impose a fine for violations, but the violations would not count as points against a Tennessee driver’s license.

If you or a loved one has recently been injured in an auto accident in which illegal cellphone use is suspected or to blame, auto accident attorney Eric Beasley may be able to assist you in a personal injury claim against the other driver.  For more information, contact the Law Office of Eric Beasley today at 615-859-2223.

Related Blog Posts:

Taking Legal Measures to Protect Auto Accident Victims, Tennessee Personal Injury Blog, November 12, 2015

Tennessee Personal Injury Claims Increase Despite Reduction in Auto Accidents,  Tennessee Personal Injury Blog, October 15, 2015

Tennessee Auto Accident Guide – What to Do and When, Tennessee Personal Injury Blog, October 2, 2015

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