On April 3rd the Tennessee Highway Patrol announced a campaign that will take aim at distracted drivers. We have all seen these drivers, and we maybe ones ourselves. This campaign includes placing troopers and local law enforcement in SUVs and tractor-trailers so that they can get a better vantage point to see if drivers are texting. The goal of the new campaign is to reduce traffic fatalities statewide.
Tennessee enacted the “Texting while Driving Law” in July of 2009. As a law firm that handles a large number of traffic citations, this law has not been enforced with any regularity until now. Texting while driving is covered under Tenn. Code Ann. § 55-8-199 and is a very specific statute. In part it reads:
“No person while driving a motor vehicle on any public road or highway shall use a handheld mobile phone to transmit or read a written message.”
The law only applies to when a vehicle is in motion and does not apply to a person dialing a phone number or receiving a call. Texting while driving is a Class C Misdemeanor and is considered a non-moving traffic violation.
Most of us think that the act of typing is what is prohibited but based on the language of the law even reading a text or email will get you pulled over. We all do it, but the best advice is to use a hands free device if you are going to talk while you drive, and you should wait to read your texts and emails until you get where you are going or at least until you are stopped. Waiting to read a text or email or responding to one won’t hurt you and will not cost you anything but getting a ticket or causing a wreck will cost a trip to court and a fine and might end up getting you and others on the road hurt.