A new hands free law goes into effect in Tennessee as of today, July 1 2019, affecting all drivers statewide. Almost all of us have been driving down the road and witnessed someone swerve or fail to maintain lane and later determine that person was texting and driving, or otherwise occupied by a cell phone. Distracted driving has become a huge problem, it is illegal to:
- Hold a cell phone or mobile device any part of your body;
- Write, send or read a text-based communication,
- Reach for a cellphone or mobile device in a manner that requires the driver to no longer be in a seated position or properly restrained by a seat belt,
- Watch a video or movie on a cellphone or mobile device, and
- Record or broadcast video on a cellphone or mobile device.
Drivers are allowed to use GPS to navigate. 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. An exception will be made for use of cellphones in emergency situations.
The campaign “hands free Tennessee” set out to educate drivers about the dangers of distracted driving. According to the campaign, there were 24,600 crashes involving a distracted driver in Tennessee in 2018Tennessee's rate is nearly five times higher than the national average of 1.49 fatalities per 10 billion vehicle miles.
While the new law will hopefully serve to make our roads safer for the public, drivers must also be aware that illegal use of a cell phone will give police a reason to stop drivers who are otherwise following the rules of the road. Be mindful while driving, change your cell phone habits to ensure you are in compliance with the law and remind your friends, family and neighbors to do the same. If nothing else, please stop making other people miss the green turn signal!