The impact of cell phones and distracted driving in Tennessee

In December, 2005, Adam and his fiancée Erica, were traveling east on Carmichael Road in Knox County, Tennessee, on their way to a friend’s wedding rehearsal. The defendant was travelling in the opposite direction. Having met with several business associates over drinks a few hours, he left the gathering and made his way home. Soon after he turned onto Carmichael Road, his cell phone rang and he looked over to where it lay on the passenger seat. As he looked back to the road, he realized he had veered into the opposite lane and applied his brakes. It was too late; emergency medical personnel were dispatched to the scene-life-saving measures were undertaken-Erica, a 21-year-old college student was dead and her fiance’ seriously injured.

Statistics on distracted driving in Tennessee

Motor vehicle accidents involving drivers distracted by cell phones occur in Tennessee at an alarming rate. According to a recent study by the National Safety Council, Tennessee ranks worst in the country for fatal cell-phone-related crashes. In 2010, there were 355 reported crashes caused by cell phone use in the United States, 71 of which occurred in Tennessee. In 2011, out of 350 fatal crashes resulting from cell phone use nationwide, Tennessee had 93. This is likely only the tip of the iceberg. The report notes that currently there is no reliable method to accurately determine how many crashes involve cell phone use, making it impossible to know the true scope of the problem. There are many challenges to verifying that cell phone use was a contributing factor in a motor vehicle crash-one of the most obvious is that police must often rely on drivers to admit to cell phone use. This is not possible when drivers are not forthcoming.

Tennessee’s distracted driving laws

In Tennessee, pursuant to statute, any learner permit or intermediate driver license holder cannot use a cell phone (handheld or hands-free) or any other type of mobile communications device while driving. It is also illegal for anyone to type or read a text message while driving. Anyone driving a school bus may not use a cell phone, unless it’s to report an emergency situation. Texting while driving is a Class C misdemeanor in Tennessee and is subject to a $50 fine plus court costs, if applicable.

For most drivers, however, talking on a cell phone while driving is not illegal but if it leads to distracted driving and an accident, it may be considered negligence.

If you have been injured in an accident and you think cell phone use may be involved, the advice of an experienced Tennessee personal injury attorney is extremely important to adequately evaluate the circumstances of each case.