Tennessee’s distracted driving laws: Taking a closer look

Tennessee does have distracted driving laws in place, though they do not cover every possible distraction.

By now, most people in Tennessee should be aware that texting while driving is dangerous. However, cellphones are not the only source of distraction in a vehicle; they are simply the most regulated distraction. It is important to know what the state's laws are, the hard facts about the behavior and the other items that could put drivers and passengers at a greater risk of an accident.

What are common distractions?

A distraction, loosely defined, is anything that takes a driver's focus off the road. Most people recognize that texting, emailing and even talking on a phone are dangerous when behind the wheel. However, other common and risky behaviors include the following:

  • Eating and grooming
  • Interacting with passengers
  • Searching in the vehicle for something
  • Getting distracted by something outside the vehicle

Distractions could occupy a driver's hands, eyes and/or mind. No matter the circumstances, experts agree that keeping hands on the wheel, eyes on the road and mind on the task is the best way to remain safe.

What are Tennessee's laws?

Under state law, no driver is permitted to text. Additionally, the state has banned school bus drivers as well as drivers with either a learner or intermediate license from using a cellphone at all. These laws are primary, which means law enforcement officers may pull over a driver upon spotting the behavior.

How many accidents do distracted drivers cause every year?

According to the Tennessee Department of Safety & Homeland Security, there were 24,754 accidents involving distracted driving in 2016. That is up from the 22,974 in 2015, which continues the rise the state has seen in such accidents over the past few years.

What is the future of distracted driving laws in Tennessee?

A number of states have more aggressive laws than Tennessee, going so far as to ban cellphone use for all drivers and even banning hands-free devices. According to a report from Fox 17 Nashville, state lawmakers may consider moving in that direction. They are currently reviewing a bill that would prohibit drivers from using any handheld devices.

What is my recourse if a distracted driver crashes into me?

For some people, simply filing a claim with the driver's insurance may cover the cost of damages. However, when that falls short of what is necessary, filing a lawsuit may be the best option. There are two statutes of limitation that may apply to a car accident. If the incident involved a personal injury, plaintiffs have one year from the date of the accident to initiate the lawsuit. For matters concerning just property damage, the time limit extends to three years.

People who have concerns about this issue should speak with a personal injury attorney in Tennessee.