Abingdon, Bristol and Johnson City
As of July 1, driving with your phone in your hand in the state of Tennessee will cost you. Tennessee’s new “Hands Free Law” goes into effect on that date, restricting the use of cellphones and mobile devices while driving. The Law Offices of Michael R. Munsey, P.C., wants to make sure you’re aware of this law and how it affects you, so you can avoid being pulled over.
Why was the “Hands Free Law” passed?
There were more than 24,600 vehicular accidents in the state of Tennessee in 2018 that involved distracted driving. A study published by ValuePenguin in February of 2019 determined that Tennessee had the highest rate of fatalities due to distracted driving in the country—at 7.2 percent, almost five times the national average.
What does the law prohibit?
As of July 1, it will become illegal for drivers in Tennessee to hold a cellphone or mobile device (even just to talk on the phone) or support such a device with any part of their body, such as placing it in the crook of the neck. This prohibits texting while driving, watching or recording a video, or any use of a mobile device that cannot be completed through the use of a Bluetooth device, or that exceeds touching one button to begin or end a phone call or navigation while the cellular device is mounted to the dash or windshield.
What are the penalties for violating this law?
Violation of this law is considered a class C misdemeanor. Penalties can include a fine as high as $50, not counting court costs, while also adding three points to your driver’s license. First-time offenders may be able to attend a driver’s education course to waive their first fine. However, repeat offenders or those that are ticketed while in a school or construction zone may receive fines at an increased rate.
With this new law, can I use my phone at all while driving?
Yes. As mentioned, you can still make and receive calls as long as you are using a hands-free device such as a Bluetooth. You also can use voice-based communication to send a text. And, you can use your phone to begin or end navigation if the phone is mounted to your dash or windshield.
Are there any exceptions to the law?
Law enforcement officers and other emergency services personnel are exempt from this law while participating in the discharge of their duties. You also will be allowed to hold your phone to communicate with law enforcement, fire departments, medical personnel, or other emergency services in the event of a genuine emergency, defined as any situation where health, life, and/or property are in jeopardy.
The law also does not prohibit texting or holding your phone while parked or stopped—even temporarily, such as at a stoplight, stop sign, or due to traffic.
In summary, the hope is that the new law dramatically reduces incidents of distracted driving and the associated risks of accidents that occur from this behavior. If you’re involved in an auto accident, this can be a stressful and traumatic event; your transportation and daily life could be affected, especially if the accident results in injuries to you or a loved one. If you have been injured or lost a loved one as the result of a vehicular accident, you may be entitled to compensation. Let the experts at the Law Offices of Michael R. Munsey, P.C., fight for you and your rights. Schedule a free consultation today by calling (276) 451-2056. We’ve been representing the injured and disabled for more than 30 years in Bristol, Johnson City, and Kingsport, TN, as well as Bristol, VA.