Tennessee’s Department of Safety & Homeland Security notes that, between December 2022 and November 2023, a crash in the state involving a distracted driver occurred every 51 minutes and 31 seconds. In that same period, a distracted driver was involved in a crash nearly every seven hours in Chattanooga. If that trend continues Chattanooga can expect at least 1,100 more distracted driving-related crashes by November 2024.
Let’s discuss the new law enacted on Jan. 1, 2024 which aims to curb this distracted driving along with some distracted driving awareness tips.
Tennessee’s Hands-Free Law
Tennessee has a had a hands-free driving law since 2019. Yet we still see drivers whose eyes are on their phones or elsewhere instead of the road ahead of them – whether they are at a red light or zipping through Chattanooga via Interstate 24 just near the Tennessee-Georgia border. It is understandably frustrating. Some key points of Tennessee code §55-8-199 already prohibit:
Physically holding or supporting a wireless telecommunications device, standalone electronic device or writing, sending or reading text-based communication while driving.
Watching a video or movie on a phone for any reason other than viewing data related to navigation.
Recording or broadcasting video on an aforementioned device.
Updates to the Hands-Free TN Law and Distracted Driving
The updated law adds SB 0589, which enacts the "Eddie Conrad Act." This establishes the number of points to be charged to a person's driving record for violations of driving while using a wireless telecommunications device.
The bill adds the following to the present law:
A second or subsequent violation by a person who is younger than 18 years of age results in seven points being charged to the person's driving record;
If a person is 18 years of age or older, then a first or second violation of this law results in four points being charged to the person's driving record; and
If a person is 18 years of age or older, then a third or subsequent violation of this law results in five points being charged to the person's driving record.
Why did the Tennessee General Assembly enact this bill?
To try to curb distracted driving before it starts or gets any worse among young drivers in Tennessee. Data indicates that young drivers pose the highest risk for distracted driving crashes; From Dec. 2022 to Nov. 2023, the most common age range for distracted drivers were those 20-to-34 years of age.
Overall, 1 in 30 drivers involved in a crash in Tennessee is distracted.
Distracted Driving: It’s Not Just Texting
But handheld devices are not the only distractions. Others include:
Adjusting a radio or in-vehicle tech
Eating and drinking
Interacting with passengers.
Pritchard Injury Firm has represented clients whose high-value injury or wrongful death claims arose from each of the aforementioned distractions.
Tips To Reduce Distracted Driving In Chattanooga
In Chattanooga, 1 in 26 drivers involved in a crash was distracted, and 1 in 15 of all crashes involved a distracted driver. All drivers, as well as employers, parents and civic leaders could help keep roads safer and prevent distracted driving by:
Allocating time and modest resources for “lunch and learn” sessions.
Having employees and insureds sign “safe driving commitment” letters.
Encouraging defensive driving courses – online and in-person.
Spread awareness of the dangers by sharing infographics like the one below on social media (off the road, of course).
Distracted driving isn’t just risky for the driver it, as it is potentially deadly for every nearby driver, pedestrian, bicyclist and worker. And it could be costly for the driver’s employer if the accident occurred while working. More Tennessee safety tips are available here and here.
The National Safety Council estimates that – conservatively – at least eight people a day are killed in distracted driving crashes in the U.S. We can do better. And we can start in Chattanooga.
Be safe and be sure to promote #DistractedDrivingAwareness year-round.
Your Chattanooga Accident Lawyer
If you have suffered bodily or physical injury due to distracted driving, have your injury lawyer review your own personal insurance policy to determine if you can file a personal insurance claim against another person or driver. You need to support your claim and gather all evidence, pictures, and documentation about the incident.
With a lawyer on your side, you level the playing field and have someone fighting solely for what you deserve, which is complete and fair compensation for your injuries.
If you have been injured in an accident due to the negligence of another, don't just settle. At Pritchard Injury Firm, we have the knowledge and experience to fight for the results you deserve. Contact us online or give us a call today at (470) 577-8152.