Tennessee has a real problem with distracted driving. It’s probably not a unique problem, as many other states are also grappling with rising distracted driving crash rates, but the Volunteer state does seem to be right up there amongst the worst statistics. The state is third worst in the U.S. for accidents caused by cell phone use, for instance.
One app provided by EverQuote.com to monitor cell phone while driving has estimated that 44% of all drives in Tennessee involve at least one cell phone distraction.
Distracted driving is officially described in Tennessee law as any activity that diverts attention away from driving so theoretically includes anything from swatting a fly in the car through to adjusting a GPS, eating, drinking, gazing out the window to using a mobile device like a tablet or cell phone. It has been estimated that by far the greatest distracted driving danger is using a cell phone, particularly texting. Texting involves all your faculties and consequently takes your attention dangerously away from driving.
Last year (2016), distracted driving accidents in Tennessee reached a new high of 24,743 crashes. According to the Tennessee Department of Safety & Homeland Security’s statistics, this number, bad as it is, is not the full picture as it doesn’t include crashes in parking lots or crashes taking place on private property.
Texting law in Tennessee
Most drivers know that it can be dangerous using a cell phone when driving, but may be unaware that texting while driving is specifically prohibited and punishable by a fine. The offence, if detected, is regarded as a Class C misdemeanor and attracts a maximum fine of $50 and court costs of up to $10.
Obstacles to improving the reduction in texting while driving
There remain a number of obstacles in the way of reducing the distracted driving accident rate, bearing in mind that the vast majority of these accidents are probably due to texting.
One problem is that it is extremely hard to actually spot anyone texting while driving. The police actually have to resort to relying on drivers being honest about what they were doing if an accident occurs. Theoretically, cell phone use can be checked as part of an investigation, but it isn’t easy as the data must match the precise time of the accident.
This also makes it hard to have sufficient evidence of driving negligence if a personal injury lawsuit is being contemplated.
The Tennessee Highway Safety Office is employing a social media program to educate drivers about the dangers of texting while driving. They are also using a marked bus with state troopers and Nashville police officers which is being used to spot texting drivers. If a driver is observed texting, the information is relayed to officers further up the highway who then pull the offender over.
The fine for texting while driving is relatively low ($50) and may not be considered much of a threat to anyone who might just be tempted to text.
A texting driver may also be actually weaving around on the highway as concentration is lacking and could even be considered as “failing to keep in a proper lane” in an accident report, even if the reason for veering into the wrong lane was due to texting.
There seems to be no silver bullet to the state’s bad distracted driving rate at the moment. The law on texting while driving hasn’t been in force for long, the fines are probably too lenient and possibly texting while driving just seems more innocuous than drinking while driving, or speeding.
Time will tell whether the state get serious about the increase in accidents as every crash means more injuries, some of them fatal.
Talk to a car accident attorney if hit by a distracted driver
If you, or a member of your family, have been involved in an accident with another driver and you suspect that it was due to distracted driving, you should get in contact with an experienced car accident attorney like Keith Williams at the Keith William Law Group in Nashville. You may be entitled to file a personal injury lawsuit based on the fact that the other driver was acting negligently. A successful claim against the driver may help to pay for medical expenses, replace or at last repair your vehicle, compensate for lost earnings and a component for pain and suffering you have experienced.