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Tennessee State: Hands Free Driving Law

Tennessee Driver using cell phone

You may have already heard other states putting similar laws into effect to make roads safer for all drivers.

It is important to know the rules of the road whether you are a visitor or resident of Tennessee. July 1st of 2019 Tennessee placed a hand-held ban against cellphones in hopes to cut down on the ever-climbing numbers of car crashes Tennessee experiences. It is illegal to hold your phone on your body or hand while operating a motor vehicle in this state. This simply means you no longer can support your phone with any part of your body while you’re driving.

Tennessee Celle Phone Driver Top Rules

  • No “selfies”/ photos
  • No recording while driving of any sort. This means capturing a rainbow or selfie while hitting the open road is no longer allowed.
  • No leaving your phone in your lap.
  • No facetime/video phone calls - This means no more Marco Polo recording is allowed if you are driving.
  • No ordering food via mobile apps
  • Please be careful when switching radio stations or songs!

 

What Drivers Still Can Do under Hands Free Law

These cell phone activities are still legal in Tennessee:

  • Talking on the phone with a wrist phone
  • Using an earpiece to talk on the phone
  • Talking via a headset
  • Touch phone one time to initiate or hang-up call using conference phone mode (Phone cannot touch your body)
  • Let passenger hold the phone for you while you talk
  • Voice texting is permitted with one-touch rule

However, you can use your mobile device if its dashboard mounted, but only for directional applications such GPS, Waze, Google Maps, etc. If you need to make a call you have to have a completely hands-free device such as Bluetooth or those small earpieces.

Rules for Drivers Under Age 18 in Tennessee

If you’re the parent of a driver under 18 you’ll be either glad or terrified to hear that Tennessee's Hands-Free Law also prohibits mobile use of any kind for these drivers. They will learn to love the radio. If any driver, teen or adult, are caught unlawfully driving with their mobile device you’ll be charged with a class C misdemeanor. Meaning it’s a moving violation, there will be a fine and court costs.

Tennessee Fines Cell Phone Driving Law

  • First time caught is a $50 fine + court costs
  • Second & Third time caught will be a $100 fine + court costs
  • If caught in a school zone, work zone, construction zone, or any place with transport workers the fine is a $200 fine + court costs

Now, if you need to make an emergency phone call its permitted. Just keep in mind being late for work does not constitute as an emergency. And if you are and you need to call your boss, do not use the breakdown lanes on the highway, and don’t pull over into a bike lane. Keep driving until you reach a safe place completely off the roadway.

Exceptions to the Rule

There are several exceptions to the handsfree law, specifically for certain state personnel. For instance, law enforcement officers, university police, and utility company employees and contracted workers.  It is also legal to make a phone call to emergency responders, 911, or a hospital, as a driver. Did you know that if you are lawfully stopped or parked, cell phone use is legal?

How effective are Hands-Free Cellphone Driving Laws

As mentioned above other states have already passed hand-held bans some of which are California, Connecticut, and New York. When California first moved their hand-held ban into effect in July of 2008 they estimated 9.3% of drivers actively used their phones while driving. Immediately after the ban went into effect cellphone use while driving had decreased to 3.3%.

Cell Phone Use While Driving Decreased

It had dropped by 57%. California then had placed a texting ban that went into effect January 2009 estimating that only 1.5% of drivers freely texted while driving. Immediately after this ban moved into place texting while driving had dropped to 0.3%, but then climbed to 3.4%. It doubled the estimate. This is startling to think about because even though these bans are out there to keep people safe there will always be those who ignore the law.

Cell Phone Citations

Hundreds of drivers have been pulled over to date. Some law enforcement personnel are issuing warnings, especially for first time offenders. Others are issuing traffic citations accompanied by fines. Certain state counties are much more active in enforcement. After the law was enacted, Wilson County issued the highest number of citations.

Stats Show No Drop in Car Collisions after Cell Phone Bans

An even larger reflection of that is the number of car crashes in these states-- they haven’t changed. California, Connecticut, and New York have not seen any changes in the number of car crashes from pre handheld ban to post handheld ban.

Only time will tell if it will positively affect Tennessee or be another law people sweep under the rug. In the meanwhile keep yourself and others around you safe, and keep that phone off and out of sight while cruising.


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Marshall and Associates Attorneys at Law