THP ramping up efforts to catch distracted drivers


TENNESSEE (WATE) — Across the state Friday, Tennessee Highway Patrol troopers stepped up distracted driving enforcement. It’s a push statewide by THP, to make focusing on the road a driver’s top priority.

This comes about three months after the state’s “hands-free” law officially went into effect.

WATE 6 On Your Side reporter Elizabeth Kuebel made a stop in Campbell County, where troopers spent the afternoon educating some of the youngest people out on the road.

Inside a THP bus set up at Campbell County High School are several simulators, giving students a look at real life scenarios behind the wheel.

“I learned that you have to pay attention and be aware of your surroundings,” Jellico High School sophomore Cassidy Crowley said.

That’s the goal behind a statewide effort by THP to tackle distracted driving. Troopers say they’re increasing their visibility to increase awareness.

“It’s so unsafe when you take your eyes off the road, your hands off the wheel, because then normally your mind is not necessarily on driving either,” said THP Sgt. Randall Martin.

Earlier this year, the state passed a “hands free” law, making it illegal for people to use their cell phone to talk or text while driving. Sgt. Martin says it’s still an issue they’re running in to.

“It’s driving the point home of put the phone down,” he said.

Big days of focused enforcement usually happen near a holiday or popular vacation time. But Sgt. Martin said Friday’s date was chosen because it’s not as expected, proving this is an issue that’s important every day of the week no matter the time of year.

“There’s no call worth your life. There’s no text message, there’s no phone call that’s worth your life or you taking the life of another,” Sgt. Martin said.

Since July 1, 2019, THP has issued nearly 7,300 distracted driving citations statewide. About 3,700 of those are specifically hands free violations. In Knox County, troopers gave out 273 distracted driving tickets, and 102 for someone using a cell phone while driving.

RELATED: What you need to know about Tennessee’s Hands-Free Law

You can learn more about the law by clicking the link above.

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