KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — A Tennessee bill would hand out harsher punishments to drivers caught using an electronic device like a cell phone by charging points to their driving record.
Current law requires offenders to pay fees or complete a driver education course. The bill, called the “Eddie Conrad Act,” would charge a driver 18 or older four points on their driving record for their first or second violation.
It would particularly raise the violations for people under the age of 18, who would receive seven points for a second offense, enough to potentially have their license suspended for six to 12 months.
Knoxville Police Department Communications Manager Scott Erland said they haven’t seen evidence that one age group violates distracted driving laws more frequently than others.
“I think we all get those updates on Sundays that shows how much time we spend on our cell phones and most people probably are stunned on how much time they spend,” Erland said. “We don’t see anything that one age group is more or less prone to distracted driving.”
State Rep. Yusuf Hakeem (D-Chattanooga) is concerned the bill may be a little too harsh.
“Excessive points on a person’s license, we don’t know if they have to go to work or whatever,” Hakeem said. “I think it is excessive.”
According to the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security from February 2022 to January 2023 a crash that involved a distracted driver occurred nearly every 25 minutes.
“Whether people know it or not, driving is one of those things that requires 100% of your attention,” Erland said. “Anything that takes away from that attention can be really dangerous, taking your eyes off the road for even a split second a lot can change.”
If someone receives 12 points within a 12-month period they could face suspension.