It's become a nuisance: You're sitting behind a car at an intersection, waiting for the light to turn green. When it does, however, the vehicle doesn't move. In fact, for several seconds, you wonder if there is something wrong with the engine or the gearbox. Then you realize what's happened. Instead of paying attention to the traffic light, the person ahead of you is distracted - by their phone, tablet, or some other type of mobile device. Clearly, this is a driver to be wary of.
Or how about the even scarier image of your fellow commuter, racing down the road in a 70 mph logjam of in bumper-to-bumper traffic, texting away as if there is nothing but smooth sailing (and empty highway) ahead. While they don't seem to mind the threat they pose, law enforcement knows differently. In fact, nationally, over 1.6 million crashes a year can be chalked up to cellphone use. In the State of Tennessee alone, over 24,700 accidents can be tagged to distracted driving.
That's why in 2009, the State banned texting while driving. The hope was to reduce the number of incidents while protecting the public. Sadly, it doesn't seem to be working. In fact, that statistic we shared above regarding crashes as a result of cellphone use? It's from 2016, and that year set a record. In 2008, the number was near 12,000. In 10 years it's doubled. In fact, even with a law on the books, Tennessee is the third worst state for individuals texting and driving.
According to State officials, nearly 44% of all drives contain at least one incident of distracted driving. Even more frightening is the fact that these numbers do not take into consideration incidents which happen on private property or result in damages of $400 or less. And let's not even discuss the fact that many accidents that result from distracted driving are not recorded because, at the time, it was difficult to determine if a cellphone (or GPS device, or some other distraction) caused the crash.
Indeed, it's clear that, sans an outright admission from the driver(s) involved, distracted driving remains a menace on our motorways and it's not getting better. Police even admit that many instances are "covered up" because of the charges filed. A ticket issued on the scene may say "Failure to Yield" or "Improper Lane Change" when they should really read "Failure to Yield Because of Cellphone Use" or "Improper Lane Change Because of Texting."
Many believe an educated driver will become a safe driver. Tennessee law is explicit - Section 55-8-199(b) states "No person while driving a motor vehicle on any public road or highway shall use a hand-held mobile telephone or a hand-held personal digital assistant to transmit or read a written message." Section 55-8-136 also states "every driver of a vehicle shall exercise due care … by devoting full time and attention to operating the vehicle, under the existing circumstances as necessary in order to be able to see and to avoid endangering life, limb or property and to see and avoid colliding with any other vehicle or person…."
If you are caught, it's a Class C Misdemeanor. The penalty, as prescribed, is a fine not to exceed fifty dollars ($50.00) and court costs not to exceed ten dollars ($10.00). Section 55-8-199(d)(2) adds "in addition to any fine imposed … a person who violates this section as a first offense shall be required to attend and complete a driver education course…."
In the end, what's more important: Your safety and the safety of others around you, or getting back to someone about that silly meme he or she just sent you? Distracted driving is not a joke. Take the law seriously, or end up a statistic.
Attorney, Brian Lee Nash has nearly a decade of experience working with a wide range of clients. He brings a vast amount of knowledge, drive, and determination to every case he works with.
If you've been involved in an accident with a distracted driver, have been charged with distracted driving or have general questions about the distracted driver laws, please contact Nash Law, PLLC today at 615-628-7555.
This article was written by the author on behalf of Nash Law, PLLC.