Is distracted driving being addressed sufficiently in Tennessee?

Most drivers in Davidson County, Tennessee, understand that texting while driving is a bad decision that can have deadly consequences. Unfortunately, statistics indicate that driver texting and distraction is still a serious problem in Tennessee. In fact, the National Safety Council indicates that Tennessee is the state with the highest rate of fatal crashes involving cell phone use. It is important for drivers in Tennessee to recognize and respect the risk that this behavior poses.

Distracted driving statistics

According to Tennessee's WWJB TV, the NSC and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported earlier this year that cell phones contributed to 10.6 percent of all fatal crashes in Tennessee. This rate, which was ten times the national average, places Tennessee ahead of every other state.

A report on crashes involving distracted drivers published on the official Tennessee government website reveals similarly disturbing statistics. In Davidson County alone, there have been several years in which distracted driving was reported as a factor in more than 1,000 crashes. Between 2003 and June 2013, the county saw more than 15,000 crashes involving distracted driving. While using a cell phone is not the only form of distracted driving that significantly increases the likelihood of a car accident, it is one of the more common and dangerous distractions.

There could be many factors that contribute to Tennessee's high rate of crashes involving cell phone use, but one worth considering is the current state law. As reported in The Tennessean, Tennessee was not awarded funding this year when the NHTSA offered a first-time grant to states with distracted driving laws. The state did not qualify because of what critics would call flaws or weaknesses in state distracted driving laws.

Distracted driving laws in Tennessee

Tennessee bans handheld cell phone use only for bus drivers and novice drivers, while texting is banned for all drivers. According to the Tennessean, Tennessee's law against texting and driving defines texting narrowly and does not increase penalties for repeat offenders. The specifics of the law are that:

  • The fine for texting and driving stays fixed at $50 regardless of prior offenses.
  • It is only illegal for drivers to send texts when the vehicle is actually in motion.
  • Drivers who text can only receive points on their licenses if they commit another traffic violation at the time.

The Tennessean also reports that legislation may be introduced next year to increase the penalties for texting and driving for both first-time and repeat offenders. In the future, stricter laws against texting and driving may keep Tennessee drivers safer while allowing the state to win federal funding.

In the meantime, statistics indicate that texting and driving is an issue that may have devastating consequences for a high proportion of accident victims in Tennessee. It is important for drivers in the state to use their best judgment every time that they are behind the wheel. At the same time, drivers need to be aware of the threat that other motorists may present.

Anyone who has been hurt in an accident with a distracted driver should speak with an attorney about pursuing compensation.

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