Distracted driving can be just as bad as reckless driving. When your attention is on your phone or another device, you are not able to pay proper attention to the road. Sen. Jim Tracy from Shelbyville, Tennessee, recognizes the obvious danger of cell phone use while driving. This is why, for the second straight year, Sen. Tracy is sponsoring a bill that would effectively ban cell phone use while operating a vehicle in Tennessee.
The proposed legislation, SB0954, would create a Class C misdemeanor for driving a motor vehicle and talking on a hand-held cell phone. The bill would also attach a penalty for minors who are found guilty of the proposed infraction. Violators can also expect to pay a fine.
The bill comes in the wake of startling evidence that shows that distracted driving crashes in Tennessee have more than doubled since 2006. According to the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security:
- In 2006, there were 10,573 car accidents caused by distracted driving in Tennessee.
- In 2011, the number of Tennessee distracted driving car crashes jumped to 18,854.
- In 2016, distracted driving crashes continued to increase, topping out at 24,743.
One key variable is the increase in cell phone usage during that time frame, which is why many legislators want to ban cell phone use while driving. Roughly 70% of individuals owned a cell phone in 2006. By 2013, that number grew to 91%, and it is continuing to grow every day.
Further, phones in 2017 operate differently than phones in 2006. With Smartphones, individuals now have access to a myriad of distractions that phones in 2006 simply could not provide, such as internet access, social media, and other applications. While this increase in technology has made life easier and more efficient in many respects, it has assuredly led to more car accidents, distracted driving injuries, and fatalities.
As of April 2017, talking on a handheld cell phone is banned in 14 states and the District of Columbia. Should SB0954 pass, Tennessee would become the 15th state to institute such a ban, joining other states like California, Illinois, and New York. The accompanying Tennessee House of Representatives bill, known as HB0868 and sponsored by Rep. John Holsclaw, provides for the same ban. This legislation would increase the penalties for crashes that involve injury or death caused by using portable devices. For a comprehensive overview of your state’s laws on cell phone use while driving, please refer to this chart provided by the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Some states are taking more drastic measures to prevent distracted driving car and truck accidents. Legislators in California are introducing even more stringent cell phone laws on top of the bans already passed in 2008. California already has laws in place that ban talking on a handheld cell phone while driving. This new law, however, would ban drivers from even holding a mobile device while driving. The law builds on earlier legislation that prevented drivers from talking and texting but did not prohibit them from streaming video, for instance, or using apps such as Facebook and Twitter.
SB0954 has a long way to go before it becomes law in Tennessee. In the meantime, it is important to drive safely and be aware of your surroundings at all times. If you have been injured by a distracted driver, call the Memphis car accident lawyers at Nahon, Saharovich & Trotz today at 1-800-LAW-4004 for a free consultation on your case.