What the New Tennessee Laws Say About Using Your Cellphone While Driving

Distracted driving is dangerous driving. Over the last ten years, we have seen a rise in the number of distracted driving incidents. Much of this coincides with the rise of the popularity of smartphones. States and local municipalities have struggled to keep up with laws relating to distracted driving. However, there have been changes to the laws in Tennessee that you need to be aware of. As our government works to find solutions, you should always remember to drive as safely as possible on Tennessee roadways.

What the new law says

On July 1, 2019, it because illegal for drivers to hold, reach for, or physically support their phones while behind the wheel. Before this law took effect, it was already illegal to text and drive. This law includes holding a cellphone for any reason while the vehicle is in motion, even when using the phone’s GPS capabilities.

If a driver wants to use the phone, they must be able to do so while using one button on the cell phone and then rely on Bluetooth capabilities, speakerphone, headphones, a wrist device, or other hands-free method to carry out the call.

If you want to use your phone as a GPS, the phone will need to be mounted in the vehicle in some way. This can include a cupholder or dash mount. As long as you are not physically holding the phone, you will be following the law.

Can you hold the phone at a red light?

At a red light, you are still technically operating a vehicle that will be moving again at any moment. You need to save the texting, emails, and Internet browsing for when the vehicle is in “park.”

Are there any other illegal activities regarding phone use?

You can no longer reach across the middle console, twist to the back seat, or search through a purse on the floor for your phone while the vehicle is in motion. You cannot watch movies or other videos on the phone while driving. You also cannot record or broadcast video on a phone while you are driving.

Drivers who have their learner’s permit or an intermediary license cannot use their phones in any way while they are driving.

Violators of these laws can face a Class C misdemeanor charge in Tennessee. This comes with three points will be added to a person’s driving record as well as a:

  • $50 fine for a first-time offense
  • $100 fine for a third-time offense or higher
  • $200 fine for violations of this law in a work or school zone

Distracted driving statistics

When we turn to the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security, we can see that there were over 200,000 total crashes. Out of those, there were:

  • 48,056 injury crashes
  • 997 fatal crashes
  • 159,491 property damage only (PDO) crashes

Looking more closely at the numbers, we can see that there were 11,640 total distracted driving crashes across the state during the latest reporting year.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), more than 9 people are killed and over 1,000 are injured each day in distracted driving incidents. The CDC says that “At 55 mph, sending or reading a text takes your eyes off the road for about 5 seconds, long enough to cover a football field.”

Call us today to speak our Nashville car accident attorneys.