Tenn. lawmakers propose banning all hand-held cell phone use while driving

Local News

Tennessee lawmakers are looking at a new bill introduced this week that would ban talking on hand-held devices while driving on any road, highway or street. Currently it’s not allowed for hand-held cell phone use in school zones.

Part of why Jayne Dake bought a new car was so that she could make calls hands-free. 

“I think it’s very important to not have your phone in your hand all the time. I see so many many drivers with their phones,” said Dake.

More than a dozen other states have implemented laws similar to Tennessee’s newly proposed bill including California, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington and West Virginia.

“There’s a misconception that a lot of drivers have that if they are driving hands-free, without holding their phone, that they are much safer. That is a misconception because the actual danger comes from your mind being distracted by that conversation,” said Stephanie Milani with AAA.

Milani says AAA researched different distractions for drivers and a mild distraction is listening to the radio, but a moderate distraction is talking on the phone hands-free or hand-held. 

“We know that even once you hang up with that conversation, your mind can still be distracted 27 seconds later,” said Milani.

AAA estimates using a cell phone while driving, hands-free or not, raises the chance of crashing by four times.

“Georgia did pass a hand-held ban last year, it went into effect. It’s a little too early to find out how big of an impact that bill has had on distracted driving,” said Milani.

Drivers in East Tennesee are divided when it comes to this proposed bill, some saying cell phone use period should not be happening but others say chatting and holding their phone isn’t problematic.

“I really would like to see the statistics on that but in my mind I think it would make a huge difference,” said Dake on the proposed bill.

Currently in Tennessee, all cell phone using while driving is banned for teen drivers, as well as school bus drivers.

AAA has suggestions for drivers on avoiding distractions:

  • Turn off your phone or switch it to silent mode before getting in the car. If you need to make a call, pull over to a safe area.
  • Set up a message to tell callers you are driving and you’ll get back to them as soon as possible.
  • Shave or apply makeup before getting in the car.
  • Ask a passenger to make calls for you.
  • Don’t text, surf the web, or read emails while driving.
  • If you’re traveling, know the state and local laws before getting in the car.
  • Program your GPS before driving.
  • Always secure your pets before you start driving.
  • Pull over to a safe spot to address situations with your kids in the car.
  • Refrain from smoking, eating, drinking ready or any activity taking your hands, mind or eyes off the road.

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