A new state law, known as the “Hands Free Law,” took effect in Tennessee on July 1. In part, this law prohibits drivers from holding a cellphone or mobile device with any part of their body while driving.
According to handsfreetn.com, “In 2018, there were over 24,600 crashes involving a distracted driver in Tennessee. On average, that is 67 crashes every single day. A recent study listed Tennessee as having the highest rate of distracted driving deaths in the nation – nearly five times the national average.”
In the last 10 years, Chester County has seen 245 traffic crashes involving a distracted driver.
William Futrell, Lieutenant with the Tennessee Highway Patrol, stated that he believes this new law will reduce injury and fatal crashes on roadways, adding that he believes it will be a tremendous tool that will aid the THP in their efforts.
Henderson Police Chief Gary Davidson also stated that he thinks the law will make roadways less dangerous, “It’s definitely going to make them safer… I can’t even drive to Jackson without seeing cars weaving on the road. When I pull up beside them, they got their phones in their hands.
Futrell shared that July and August will be a time to educate the public about the new law: “THP goal is to focus on educating and informing the public before implementing aggressive enforcement. We are considering this as a ‘Teachable Moments from THP.’ This period of education will extend up to Aug. 30, 2019, Labor Day weekend. If troopers encounter a driver that is grossly violating the law, troopers will take the appropriate action.”
Davidson agreed that, in the beginning, their agency will be focusing on education about the new law. “We may do some traffic stops with warnings to advise people of the new law. But we will be educating for at least three good months.”
Once the “educational” period is over, both agencies plan on enforcing the new cell-phone law. Violation of this law is a Class C misdemeanor. A traffic citation based on this violation is considered a moving traffic violation. Fines for violations of the law include: $50 for a first-time offense, $100 for a third-time offense or higher; violation results in a car crash, $200 if violation occurs in a work zone while workers are present; violation occurs in a marked school zone while flashers are in operation.
The “Hands Free Law,” known as Public Chapter No. 412, can be seen in its entirety by visiting handsfreetn.com.