Tennessee Highway Patrol is Cracking Down on Distracted DrivingTexting while driving is against the law in Tennessee and it has been since 2009, yet Tennesseans along with other Americans on roads and highways throughout the United States do not seem to think that the law applies to them as drivers continue to read and respond to text messages, emails and surf the web while they are operating a motor vehicle.

The Tennessee Highway Patrol launched a campaign in April to crack down on distracted driving by using a 40-foot bus to patrol the roadways. From the vantage point of the bus, law enforcement officers can see directly into passing vehicles and observe drivers who are texting and driving or engaging in other forms of distracted driving such as personal grooming, eating and turning their heads to respond do distractions within the vehicle. Officers conduct visual patrols from the bus and communicate with patrol vehicles so they can pull drivers over who are violating the law.

A story in the Jackson Sun reports that there were 512 distracted driving-related crashes in Madison County in 2016, which was up from 438 crashes in the previous year per the Tennessee Department of Homeland Security. In the Sun story, Brenda Jones, assistant law enforcement administrator for the Tennessee Highway Safety Office is quoted as having said, “When we speak of changing driver behavior we want drivers to make the roadway safer, and we change driver behavior through education or enforcement. We let the driver choose which one.” THP will be focusing on distracted driving throughout the summer, and along with the big bus on patrol there will also be unmarked cars on the lookout for all forms of distracted driving that put other drivers and pedestrians at risk throughout Tennessee.

Tennessee Rules of the Road prohibits the use of hand-held devices while driving

The use of hand-held mobile telephone or personal digital assistant to transmit or read a written message prohibited while driving. (TN Code § 55-8-199 (2015))

But what about using a map app, changing GPS settings on my phone? Can I just read a text message without getting a ticket?

If using the map application or adjusting the GPS coordinates involves holding and reading a hand-held device, using that device to transmit or receive a message while driving it is in violation of the law. So, yes, you can get a ticket if you are holding your phone and reading texts or emails while you are driving.

Violating this law is a Class C misdemeanor and subject to a $50. fine and court costs of not more than $10. It is not considered a moving violation and no points will be added to the driver’s record.

Last month in a traffic crash that made national headlines, the driver of a pickup truck was texting while he was driving when he collided with a church van full of people. Twelve people died and the scene and a 13th person later died of their injuries from the crash.

It is up to individual drivers to take responsibility for their safety and for the safety of those with whom they share the roadway.

Distracted driving is the ultimate in negligent driving behavior. If you or someone you care about has suffered a serious injury in a car accident that was the result of distracted driving, you may be able to take legal action against the perpetrator. You may recover compensation for your pain and suffering, medical expenses, lost income and other damages. At the Rocky McElhaney Law Firm, we focus on winning maximum compensation for our clients. We invite you to call 615-246-5549 or fill out our online form to schedule a free consultation with an experienced car accident attorney in one of our offices conveniently located in Nashville, Gallatin, or Knoxville.