Nashville, TN – Beginning July 1st, 2019, a new Tennessee Law goes into effect that will crack down on distracted driving making hand-held cellphones illegal. Motorists will be fined even for the act of holding a cell phone while at the wheel.
This new law is Tennessee’s attempt to curb the high amount of phone-related distracted driving accidents across the state.
The Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security is partnering with the Tennessee Department of Transportation and the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development to launch “Hands Free Tennessee.”
The purpose of this campaign is to educate Tennesseans about the state’s new “Hands Free Law,” known as Public Chapter No. 412, which takes effect on July 1st, 2019. This new law requires drivers to put down their phones and focus on the road.
Let’s eliminate distracted driving-related fatalities and injuries for good.
What Is the Tennessee Hands Free Law?
PC0412 makes it illegal for a driver to:
(a) hold a cellphone or mobile device with any part of their body,
(b) write, send, or read any text-based communication,
(c) reach for a cellphone or mobile device in a manner that requires the driver to no longer be in a seated driving position or properly restrained by a seat belt,
(d) watch a video or movie on a cellphone or mobile device,
(e) record or broadcast video on a cellphone or mobile device.
Is Distracted Driving a Problem in Tennessee?
In 2018, there were over 24,600 crashes involving a distracted driver in Tennessee. On average, that is sixty-seven 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. Your phone can wait – your safety can’t.
Frequently asked Questions
When does the law take effect?
The law takes effect on July 1st, 2019.
What are the penalties?
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:
- $50.00 = First-time offense
- $100.00 = Third-time offense or higher; violation results in a car crash
- $200.00 = Violation occurs in a work zone while workers are present; violation occurs in a marked school zone while flashers are in operation
Are there exceptions?
This section does not apply to the following persons:
- Officers of this state or of any county, city, or town charged with the enforcement of the laws of this state, or federal law enforcement officers when in the actual discharge of their official duties;
- Campus police officers and public safety officers, as defined by § 49-7-118, when in the actual discharge of their official duties;
- Emergency medical technicians, emergency medical technician paramedics, and firefighters, both volunteer and career, when in the actual discharge of their official duties;
- Emergency management agency officers of this state or of any county, city, or town, when in the actual discharge of their official duties;
- Persons using a wireless telecommunications device to communicate with law enforcement agencies, medical providers, fire departments, or other emergency service agencies while driving a motor vehicle, if the use is necessitated by a bona fide emergency, including a natural or human occurrence that threatens human health, life, or property;
- Employees or contractors of utility services providers acting within the scope of their employment;
- Persons who are lawfully stopped or parked in their motor vehicles or who lawfully leave standing their motor vehicles.
Can I hold my cellphone in my hand while driving?
It is illegal for a driver to operate a motor vehicle while holding or supporting a cellphone or mobile device with any part of his/her body.
Can I talk on my cellphone while driving?
A driver is permitted to use an earpiece, headphone device, or device worn on a wrist to conduct voice-based communication. The driver may use one (1) button on a cell phone or mobile device to initiate or terminate voice communication. Voice-based communication may also be used to send a text message.
Can I use a hands-free device to record video on my cellphone while driving?
It is illegal for a driver to record or broadcast video on a cellphone or mobile device. However, this does not apply to mobile devices used for the sole purpose of continuously recording or broadcasting video within or outside of the motor vehicle.
Can I drive and stream music from my cellphone while using a hands-free device?
A driver is permitted to listen to streaming music that does not include videos on the screen of the cellphone or mobile device. However, the driver cannot touch the cellphone to activate or program music while driving.
Can I use my cellphone while driving in the case of an emergency?
A driver is permitted to use a cellphone or other wireless telecommunications device to communicate with law enforcement agencies, medical providers, fire departments, or other emergency service agencies while driving a motor vehicle, if the use is necessitated by a bona fide emergency, including a natural or human occurrence that threatens human health, life, or property.
Would I get points on my driving record for violating this law?
Yes, you would get 3 points on your driving record for each violation.
How many points does it take to get a suspended license?
It takes 12 points to get your license suspended.
Montgomery County Distracted Driver Traffic Crashes by Year
Montgomery County: 2009 – 2019*
Excludes parking lot and private property crashes as well as crashes with less than $400.00 damage.Source: Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security; TITAN Database 2019* 1/1/2019 – 3/31/2019.Distracted Driver: Inattentive, Texting/PDA/Blackberry, GPS, Cellular In Use, Computer, Fax, Printer, On-Board Navigation System, Other Electronic Device, Two Way Radio, Head Up Display, Other-Inside Vehicle, Other-Outside Vehicle.