Tennessee goes hands-free, drops devices behind the wheel

Local News

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – Drivers on Tennessee roadways had to put down their devices as a new law went into effect on Monday, July 1.

The new law makes it illegal for a driver to hold a cellphone, send a text or take a picture on a phone or mobile device.

More: THP troopers: ‘Be prepared and put phone down before new law starts’

THP troopers say you can still have a conversation on the phone in your car, but you can’t hold your phone or use any part of your body to hold the phone up.

“I’ve heard about it, but I haven’t read a whole lot about it, so I’m not exactly sure about all the factors in the law are,” said Celia Ferguson.

Lt. Don Boshears with Tennessee Highway Patrol explains that a driver can touch their phone once to answer a call and once to end the call.

“If you’ve got a phone in the holder and the phone rings, you can touch one button on the phone or the steering wheel to answer the call. You’re fine as long as you don’t pick the phone up and hold it in your hand while you’re having the conversation,” he said.

Drivers can use Bluetooth through their radio or Bluetooth ear devices, and ear buds or headphones.

You can use your Apple Watch while driving but you’re only allowed one touch to answer or end the call.

Troopers say you cannot hold your phone and use GPS, and troopers suggest using voice command for turn by turn directions.

Lt. Boshears says you can continue streaming music through your phone.

“The big question that we get on that is, ‘If I don’t like the song that comes on, can I pick the phone up and change the device to the next song?’ No. You can stream music but you can’t look at it and you can’t pick it up,” Boshears said.

Troopers say the hands-free law is similar to our current texting law. If you’re at a legal stop at a red light you can, by the law, make a call or send a text. But Lt. Boshears suggests you find a safe place like a parking lot to pull over.

“Every case is different. I can’t say that there’s an umbrella that you can just cover every situation with, it’s going to be on a case by case basis,” said Lt. Boshears.

Drivers say on Monday that it’s about time for this law change.

“I think it’s a good law. I think it’ll help prevent accidents,” said Jennifer Duffie.

If you’re cited for this violation:

  • $50 – First-time offense
  • $100 – Third-time offense or higher; violation results in crash
  • $200 – Violation occurs in a work zone while workers present; violation occurs in marked school zone while flashers are in operation

There are exceptions. This law does not apply to certain people while working:

  • Law enforcement officers
  • Campus police and public safety officers
  • Emergency first responders
  • Firefighters, including volunteer firefighters
  • Paramedics
  • Utility service employees or contractors

Also, you are also exempt if you’re calling first responders in the case of a genuine emergency.

For more information about the hands-free cell phone law, you can click here.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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