Oak Ridge Police working to reduce distracted driving deaths

Local News

OAK RIDGE, Tenn. (WATE)– April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month and law enforcement agencies are partnering with the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security to remind people about “Hands Free Tennessee.”

At nearly five times the national average, Tennessee is listed as having the highest rate of distracted driving deaths in the nation according to the Tennessee Department of Transportation.

“The THSO partners with the Oak Ridge Police Department to provide overtime grant funding for saturation patrols and overtime-officers to target areas that we have increase crashes and traffic violations,” Oak Ridge Police officer Christopher Wallace said.

The Hands-Free Law went into effect July 1, 2019.

Since the Hands-Free Law was enacted in the state, law enforcement has seen the number of distracted driver crashes decrease.

“2020 crash data showed that there were 85 distractive driving crashes reported in Anderson county,” Wallace said. “That was a reduction from the mid-200s, the two prior years data prior to that.”

However law enforcement wants that number to drop to zero.

“We still get some people that say they weren’t aware of the law and we’re coming up on the two-year mark of it being out,” Wallace said.

He said younger drivers are the main concern.

“Data shows that mainly teenagers and the next group of age from 25 to 34 accounts for approximately 40 percent of distracted driving crashes that we have.”

It’s not just cellphones officers are worried about, but passengers can also be a cause for distraction.

This can lead to serious fines or even death.

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 for the first offense
  • $100 for the third offense or higher and/or the violation results in a car crash
  • $200 if the violation occurs in a work zone while workers are present or in a marked school zone while flashers are in operation

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