KNOXVILLE (WATE) – Drivers on East Tennessee roadways got a harsh reminder about what can happen when you’re not paying attention behind the wheel. Law enforcement teamed up in Knoxville on Wednesday for Tennessee’s first statewide distracted driving enforcement bus tour to support National Distracted Driving Awareness Month.
It only took minutes before troopers caught a woman looking down at a book, reading while driving. Law enforcement radioed a patrol car to pull her over and issue a $50 ticket for distracted driving.
Under the “Due Care Law” it is illegal to be distracted while driving in the state of Tennessee. The law covers a number of things such as reaching for something on the floor to texting.
Lee Strzelecki, Deputy Sheriff for Knox County Sheriff Office said, “At 50 miles an hour you’re going approximately 74 feet per second, so it’s a lot of distance that transpires when you just look away for that one second.”
Boarded on a marked bus, officers worked together in a unique effort to spot motorists violating the law.
“Driver had the cell phone in his hand,” said one officer looking out the window on the bus.
The bus is considered a giant billboard with “State Trooper Tennessee” plastered on the side. Law enforcement says many people mistaken it as transportation for inmates, but in this case, they were using it as a tool to prove people are distracted.
“We’re all over the place. We’re on motorcycles, cars and we’re on buses. You never know when we’re going to show up,” said Strzelecki.
Texting and driving is the most common distraction, but using GPS navigation, or even eating and drinking can all be considered distracted driving. In 2016, Tennessee saw its highest number of known distracted driving crashes with nearly 25,000 crashes resulting in 58 deaths.
Strzelecki adds, “it’s just as dangerous as someone who is driving impaired.”
Police issued nearly two dozen tickets in about 45 minutes on Interstate 40. Law enforcement hopes distracted driving habits will decrease after seeing it become a trend on the roads.
Throughout the tour, the THSO will be using #ThumbsDownTN to promote its third annual Thumbs Down to Texting and Driving campaign.