As Tennessee lawmakers fight to decrease accidents, injuries and deaths caused by distracted driving, a new law recently took effect. According to NWTN Today, legislators mostly intended to make it possible for law enforcement officials to stop distracted drivers based on no other driving violations and hope that long term it will reduce deaths and crashes caused by manual, cognitive and visual distracted driving.
According to the new law, drivers should not be holding any stand-alone electronic or wireless device while driving. As the 19th state to put such a law into effect, officers can now issue a citation simply for driving while operating an electronic device, rather than having it be a secondary charge to another traffic issue. One exemption to the rule is when a driver is making an emergency call for a medical emergency or life-threatening emergency.
The law makes distracted driving a primary stop offense. The state formerly made texting while driving illegal and there has been a ban on using electronic devices in school zones since 2017. Drivers are still able to use earpieces, dashboard mounts, devices worn on wrists or headphone devices while driving. National statistics state that over 30% of drivers talk on the phone daily, so lawmakers formerly made it illegal for anyone with a learner’s permit to use a cell phone while driving.
Tennessee has the highest number of distracted driving related deaths, and the average is almost five times the national one. Drivers can be fined $50, but in a second or third offense or one that leads to an accident, the fine doubles. Violations in school zones when flashers are on or in work zones where workers are there increase the fine to $200.