NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Tennessee lawmakers Wednesday narrowly turned back a bill that would repeal parts of the hands-free driving law, failing it in the Senate Transportation and Safety Committee.
The sponsor of SB 1751 had raised concerns that the new law passed in 2019 had done the opposite of what it was intended to do.
“Do you still make a phone call (from your car)?” asked sponsor Jon Lundberg (R-Bristol) during his presentation of the bill to the Senate Transportation and Safety Committee. “But now when you do that, do you hold the phone down here by your knees and do you still make those phone calls. Most people will say yes and that is inherently more dangerous.”
Along with safety concerns, the East Tennessee lawmaker also cited personal freedoms for bringing the bill.
Some fellow senators and the state highway patrol’s top person wondered why they should repeal the bill making it illegal to touch your phone in Tennessee while driving.
“We are looking at a four-percent decrease in distracted driving crashes,” said Col. Dereck Stewart who heads the Tennessee Highway Patrol.
Col. Stewart also testified that distracted driving deaths had actually gone up from 60 to 66 from 2018 to 2019 when the law began, but the top trooper said he expects the numbers to go down with more highway patrol enforcement.
The Senate Transportation Committee, by a 5-3 vote, disagreed saying the hands-free bill should stay, even though the new bill would have still made it illegal to touch your phone in school or work zones.
Sen. Lundberg said he is not sure if he’ll bring back the bill next year, but he’ll be watching the numbers to see if the hands-free bill is working.
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