Starting July 1st, Tennessee will no longer allow people to use hand-held devices while driving. The new law makes it illegal to be:
- “Physically holding or supporting, with any part of the person’s body, a:
- Wireless telecommunications device; however, a person 18 years of age or older may use an earpiece, headphone device, or device worn on a wrist to conduct a voice-based communication; and may use a one button on a wireless telecommunications device to initiate or terminate a voice communication; or
- Stand-alone electronic device;
- Writing, sending, or reading any text-based communication, including, but not limited to, a text message, instant message, email, or internet data on a wireless telecommunications device or stand-alone electronic device; however a person 18 years of age or older may use such devices: to automatically convert a voice-based communication to be sent as a message in a written form; or for navigation of the motor vehicle through use of a device’s global positioning system;
- Reaching for a wireless telecommunications device or stand-alone electronic device in a manner that requires the driver to no longer be: in a seated driving position; or properly restrained by a safety belt;
- Watching a video or movie on a wireless telecommunications device or stand-alone electronic device other than viewing data related to the navigation of the motor vehicle; and
- Recording or broadcasting video on a wireless telecommunications device or stand-alone electronic device; however, this provision does not apply to electronic devices used for the sole purpose of continuously recording or broadcasting video within or outside of the motor vehicle.”
Tennessee is the 19th state to ban hand-held cellphone use, and the new law makes some much-needed updates. First, it increases the maximum fine for first offenses to $100, and increases the maximum court costs to $50. It also changes to a moving violation, which means you could potentially get points on your license.
If you cause a car accident, or if this is your third offense, the fine increases to $100. The fine is also $200 if you are caught in a school zone (when warning flashers are on) or work zone (when workers are present).
Distracted driving is killing people in Tennessee
This hand-held ban is necessary, because Tennessee has the highest distracted driving fatality rate in the country – about 5 times the national average rate. According to the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security, there were 5,592 distracted driver vehicle wrecks between January 1 and March 31, 2019 alone. Over the last 10 years, more than 209,000 crashes have been caused by distracted drivers.
How a cellphone stop could land you in jail
Using a hand-held device while you drive will not, in itself, send you to jail. However, if you are pulled over while using a cellphone, it gives the officer the right to stop and investigate for other crimes, like DUI or possession of contraband.
We urge all of you to set yourselves up for hands-free cellphone usage now, if you have not done so already. Using Bluetooth speakers, a smartwatch, or an earpiece will keep you in compliance with the law, but it will also help keep you safe.
If you have questions about the new law, or if you need legal counsel about a crash or a stop, Delius & McKenzie, PLLC can help. Our Sevierville attorneys offer comprehensive counsel to clients in and around Sevierville, Gatlinburg, Seymour, and Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. To schedule a consultation, please call 865-428-8780 or complete our contact form.