Tennessee Distracted Driving Laws

April 03 2024 | Car Accident Lawyer Blog
  • Tennessee Distracted Driving Statistics

    There were 9,873 crashes involving distracted drivers in Tennessee in 2023. Despite this, and other alarming statistics, driver distraction-related crashes continue to be a challenge in Tennessee and across the nation.

    Tennessee has taken a number of steps to reduce distracted driving, however it’s important to recognize that inattentive drivers continue to cause a significant amount of motor vehicle crashes. As Tennessee personal injury lawyers, our team sees the impact of distracted driving injuries and distracted driving fatalities first-hand, and understand the impact this trend can have on families across the state when a loved one is injured in a crash that could have been avoided if a driver’s attention was focused on the road.

    What is the definition of distracted driving?

    Distracted driving refers to any activity that diverts a driver’s attention away from the primary task of driving. This distraction can significantly impair the driver’s ability to safely operate a vehicle, increasing the risk of accidents, injuries, and fatalities.

    The most dangerous counties in Tennessee for distracted driving

    In 2022, Davidson County, including Nashville, Belle Meade, Berry Hill, Forest Hills, and Oak Hill, experienced 1,386 crashes involving distracted drivers. This statistic is staggering, but unfortunately it is well exceeded by Shelby County, where Memphis resides. During the same time period, Shelby County saw 6,871 crashes involving distracted drivers, or nearly 5 times more than Davidson County.

    Shelby County is the westernmost county in the U.S. state of Tennessee. As of the 2020 census, the population was 929,744. Davidson County’s population is 715,884. This means that although there are 30% more people in Shelby County compared to Davidson County, Shelby County experienced over 396% more crashes involving distracted drivers than Davidson County in 2022, making it the most dangerous county in Tennessee for distracted driving.

    2023 Tennessee distracted driving statistics and traffic safety facts

    Tennessee Distracted Driving Statistics Infographic

    Download Tennessee Distracted Driving Infographic

    In 2023, Tennessee faced a critical examination of its road safety, particularly due to the alarming prevalence of distracted driving incidents. As traffic safety became an increasingly pressing concern, statistics highlighted the seriousness of the issue.

    • Tennessee’s distracted driving rate is five times the national average according to the THP.
    • Texting or reading a text message takes your attention away from the road for 5 seconds. At 55 mph, it’s like driving an entire football field blindfolded.
    • In 2023, a crash involving distracted driving happened in Tennessee every 26 minutes according to the Department of Safety and Homeland Security.
    • 37.29% of all distracted drivers ages were younger drivers, ages 20-34. Teen drivers and novice drivers are also more likely to be distracted while driving.
    • 1 in 15 drivers involved in a Tennessee crash were distracted in 2023.

    A timeline of recent Tennessee distracted driving laws

    Tennessee has taken a variety of legal steps to discourage distracted driving in Tennessee. Tennessee distracted driving laws are aimed at preventing distracted driving crashes throughout the state.

    2018 Tennessee bans using a hand-held mobile device in a school zone

    As of January 1, 2018, using a cell phone in a school zone in Tennessee is illegal for all drivers (§ 55-8-207). This law specifically states:

    • It is an offense for a person to knowingly operate a motor vehicle in any marked school zone in Tennessee, when a warning flasher or flashers are in operation, and talk on a hand-held mobile telephone while the vehicle is in motion.
    • It is a delinquent act for a person under eighteen (18) years of age to knowingly operate a motor vehicle on any road or highway in this state and talk on a mobile telephone that is equipped with a hands-free device while the vehicle is in motion.

    2018 Tennessee headlight law

    A 2018 Tennessee headlight law (§ 55-9-402) was passed to make it illegal for a vehicle to have headlights that vary in color.

    No vehicle operated in this state shall be equipped with any steady-burning lights that display to the front of the vehicle in any color other than white or amber or in any combination of colors other than white and amber.

    This law was instated to reduce distracted driving and visual distractions while drivers are behind the wheel.

    2019 Tennessee Hands Free Law

    In 2019, Tennessee implemented measures aimed at informing drivers and reducing distracted driving through the enactment of legislation known as the “Hands Free Law.” Tennessee Code Annotated § 55-8-199 makes it unlawful for drivers to:

    • Hold a cellphone or mobile device with any part of their body
    • Write, send, or read any text-based communication
    • Reach for a cellphone or mobile device in a manner that requires the driver to no longer be in a seated driving position or properly restrained by a seat belt
    • Watch a video or movie on a cellphone or mobile device
    • Record or broadcast video on a cellphone or mobile device

    2024 Eddie Conrad Act

    Starting from January 1, 2024, the Eddie Conrad Act, also known as Tennessee Senate Bill 589, was passed in Tennessee to deter individuals under the age of 18 from driving distracted.

    Types of distracted driving

    Distracted driving can be categorized into several types, including:

    • Visual Distraction: These involve taking your eyes off the road. Examples include looking at a phone, a text message, GPS, electronic devices, or adjusting vehicle controls.
    • Manual Distraction: These distractions involve taking your hands off the steering wheel. Examples include texting, eating, or reaching for objects.
    • Cognitive Distraction: Cognitive distractions involve taking your mind off driving. Examples include daydreaming, talking on the phone, or being emotionally upset.

    Each type of distraction can significantly impair a driver’s ability to safely operate a vehicle and increase the risk of accidents.

    Leading causes of distracted driving

    • Texting and cell phone use: This involves sending or reading text messages, browsing the internet, or using apps while driving.
    • Talking on the phone: Holding a conversation on a handheld cell phone or hands-free device can divert attention from the road. Hand held phone use should be avoided at all costs while driving.
    • Eating and drinking: Consuming food or beverages while driving can require manual and visual attention away from driving tasks.
    • Grooming: Fixing hair, applying makeup, or other grooming activities can take attention away from the road.
    • Adjusting vehicle controls: Manipulating the radio, GPS, air conditioning, or other vehicle features can distract a driver.
    • Talking to passengers: Engaging in conversations with passengers, especially if they are loud or disruptive, can divert attention from driving and create a crash risk.
    • Daydreaming or being lost in thought: Mental distractions can impair a driver’s ability to focus on the road and react to hazards.
    • External distractions: Activities happening outside the vehicle, such as looking at billboards, scenery, or other accidents, can distract drivers.

    Tips to reduce distracted driving in Tennessee

    • If you need to send a text, find a safe spot to pull over and park your car. Only then should you read or send the text message.
    • Distracted driving encompasses more than just texting; browsing social media or messaging on an electronic device while driving is also considered distracted driving.
    • Designate a passenger as your “texting assistant” to handle calls or messages while you focus on driving.
    • Ensure you have a hands free phone so that you can remain focused on the road.
    • Enable your phone’s “Do Not Disturb” mode, mute notifications, or stow your phone in the trunk to resist the urge to respond while driving.
    • Take action if you observe someone texting and driving; politely ask them to store their phone away.

    How much is a texting and driving ticket in Tennessee?

    Violation of the Tennessee Hands Free Law is a Class C misdemeanor. A traffic citation based on this violation is considered a moving traffic violation. Fines for violations of the law include:

    • $50 = First-time offense
    • $100 = Third-time offense or higher; violation results in a car crash
    • $200 = Violation occurs in a work zone while workers are present; violation occurs in a marked school zone while flashers are in operation

    A distracted driving lawyer in Tennessee can impose higher penalties

    Violations can have more serious implications if distracted driving is proven to be a contributing factor in a collision resulting in injury to another driver, especially when proving distracted driving in a personal injury claim.

    For example, if a Nashville car accident lawyer was to prove distracted driving caused a wreck that resulted in injuries or death, the distracted driver may be held liable for damages including:

    Don’t drive distracted. Our Nashville personal injury lawyers and attorneys throughout the state have helped victims of driver distraction for over 35 years and have seen first-hand the damage that a lack of driver attention can have on individuals and families. The risk of a crash is not worth it.

    Save lives while reducing distracted driving

    Reducing distracted driving is essential for saving lives on our roads. By minimizing distractions behind the wheel, drivers can significantly enhance their ability to react promptly to potential hazards, reducing the likelihood of accidents and saving lives.

    Whether it’s avoiding the temptation to check a text message, making phone calls hands-free, or refraining from multitasking activities like eating or grooming while driving, every effort to minimize distractions contributes to safer roads for everyone.

    Through awareness campaigns, education, and enforcement of distracted driving laws, communities in Tennessee can work together to promote responsible driving habits and ultimately save lives on our roads.

    If you’ve been injured by a distracted driver, contact us today

    If you’ve suffered injuries due to a distracted driver, don’t hesitate to reach out to us today. Our team understands the challenges and complexities that come with navigating such situations, and we’re here to provide you with the support and guidance you need.

    From gathering evidence to negotiating with insurance companies and pursuing legal action, our personal injury lawyers will advocate tirelessly on your behalf to ensure that you receive the compensation you deserve for your injuries and losses. Your well-being is our priority, and we’re committed to helping you through this difficult time.

    Call us now at 800-800-4600 for a free consultation.


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