Tennessee does have distracted driving laws like every other state in the country, but are motorists paying attention?

The Tennessee Department of Safety & Homeland Security has the 2016 statistics for accidents that involved distracted driving. The numbers have continued to rise, and part of the problem is smartphones.

All about distraction

In terms of driving, distraction is defined as anything that takes drivers’ eyes off the road. They may be eating or drinking, reaching under the seat for something or twisting around to quiet a baby in the back seat. They might be chatting with a passenger. A few seconds of inattention is all it takes for a catastrophic accident to happen.

Where smartphones come in

Across the nation, traffic fatalities increased 14.4 percent in 2015 and 2016. Here in Tennessee, there were 24,754 crashes related to distracted driving in 2016, which was an increase from the previous year. One of the reasons for this is the tremendous increase in the number of people who own smartphones: As of 2016, the number of iPhone and Android owners stood at 81 percent in the U.S. A second, and more immediate concern, is the way in which drivers use them. They are more likely to use smartphones for texting or checking emails or social media updates than for calling—and that kind of use involves taking the eyes off the road for a precious few seconds.

Tennessee laws

State law forbids all drivers from texting. School bus drivers and those with learner and intermediate licenses may not legally use cellphones at all when behind the wheel. If a law enforcement officer sees a driver using a cellphone, he or she may pull the motorist over. Keep the national statistics in mind: 100 people die every day on U.S. highways—and many of these fatalities only happen because of driver distraction, often because of a smartphone.