Distracted drivers across the country, including in Nashville, Davidson County, and other parts of Tennessee, are causing more and more vehicle crashes resulting in serious injuries and fatalities. If a distracted driver has caused you or someone you love a serious injury, you can hold them responsible with the help of reliable information and skilled legal representation.
A Plague of Distracted Drivers
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety estimates that about ten percent of all drivers are using a hand-held or hands-free cellphone at any given moment. That means that for every ten passing drivers, one is likely to be on a cellphone. The same report also cites studies showing that the greater the cellphone use, the greater the accident rate. Drivers on cellphones go faster, change lanes more often, and brake harder.
Distracted driving leads to more vehicle crashes. Tennessee alone has seen nearly a quarter-million distracted driving crashes since 2010. Nashville’s Davidson County has seen 24,967 distracted driving crashes in the same period—about twice as many as any other Tennessee County. Distracted driving is a serious problem in and around Nashville.
The Devastating Impact of Distracted Driving
Nationally, 3,142 people died in distracted-driver crashes in 2019, the most recent year for which those statistics are available. That’s about nine percent of all traffic fatalities. In fact, Tennessee may be the worst state in the country for distracted driving. Distracted driving is responsible for about 460 Tennessee fatalities each year. That number works out to a rate about five times the national average.
Distracted Driving Is a Crime in Tennessee
Distracted driving can involve any activity that keeps the driver from full engagement with the vehicle’s safe operation. Those activities can include eating or drinking, fiddling with the radio or other sound devices, caring for children within the vehicle, or simply conversing with a passenger. But statistics like some of those above show that using a cellphone or other electronic device is a primary form of distracted driving.
States have different definitions of what a driver can and can’t do with a cellphone or other electronic device. Some states permit greater use, and other states permit less use. Tennessee law on cellphone use is about in the middle of the road, restricting much cellphone use but permitting more use than some might think. Tennessee’s legislature enacted its law on distracted driving, known as the Tennessee Hands-Free Law, effective July 1, 2019. Tennessee’s Hands-Free Law makes it a Class C misdemeanor crime for a driver to:
- Physically hold or support a wireless telecommunications device or stand-alone electronic device with any part of the person’s body, other than an earpiece, headphone, or wrist device for voice-based communication
- Write, send, or read any text-based communication, including a text message, instant message, or email, on a wireless telecommunications device or stand-alone electronic device, other than to operate a GPS system
- Reach for a wireless telecommunications device or stand-alone electronic device in a manner that requires the driver to no longer be seated or properly restrained by a safety belt
- Watch a video or movie on a wireless telecommunications device or stand-alone electronic device other than viewing data related to the navigation of the motor vehicle
- Record or broadcast video on a wireless telecommunications device or stand-alone electronic device.
Exceptions in Tennessee’s Hands-Free Law
However, not every driver using a cellphone or other electronic device is committing a crime in Tennessee. Tennessee’s Hands-Free Law generally allows:
- A single swipe to activate a hands-free cell phone—but no typing
- Use of a GPS system
- Use of a continuous-recording dashcam
- Voice-activated, hands-free texting for drivers 18 or older
- Communication with emergency personnel during an emergency
- Law enforcement and emergency personnel use in the course of work
- School bus drivers calling 911 or on a two-way radio with dispatch
Proving a Distracted Driving Claim
If you or someone you love suffered an injury at the hands of a distracted driver, then a monetary recovery from the at-fault driver’s insurance company is likely. Distracted driving is careless driving, for which the injured person is likely to have a negligence claim.
But proving a distracted-driving claim is harder than you might think. Just because the driver had a cellphone within reach, even one that was activated, doesn’t necessarily mean that its use contributed to the accident. The car accident injury lawyers at Weir & Kestner know how to investigate and prove distracted driving. The cellphone or other electronic device, service-provider records, and eyewitness testimony can all be reliable evidence of distracted driving.
Don’t assume that you have no claim just because the driver who caused the accident denies that they were distracted. With the help of an experienced attorney, you can prove that distracted driving caused your injury.