Most people understand that drunk drivers pose a major threat to other people on the road. While many people are aware of how dangerous distracted driving can be, far too many people fail to take this public safety threat seriously enough. Even reading or sending one text could result in a crash that causes serious injuries or even kills someone else.
According to the Tennessee Highway Safety Office, sending one text message that takes five second to type while traveling at 55 miles per hour is basically like driving the length of an entire football field without looking at the road.
A child or animal could dart, unseen, in front of you. The vehicle in front of you could need to suddenly brake. You may feel safe because you choose not to text and drive, but it only takes one message for another person on the road with you to cause a serious accident.
Distracted driving means more than just texting
Far too many people focus on texting or social media when they discuss distracted driving. There's no question that operating a motor vehicle while reading or writing a text message is a mistake. Using Snapchat, Facebook Live or other social media while driving is also a mistake that can lead to severe or deadly crashes.
However, cellphones and mobile devices are only one source of distraction. Even without a smartphone, people can still find themselves distracted from safety while driving.
Other common forms of distraction include changing music or the radio, arguing with passengers or someone on a cellphone, eating or drinking, applying makeup or even adjusting or changing clothing. Some people will even take their eyes off the road to read a book, look at a map or GPS, or try to grab something that's fallen off of a seat.
Distracted driving is against the law in Tennessee
Tennessee lawmakers and law enforcement have long understood the correlation between distraction and the increased risk for a motor vehicle collision. It should come as little surprise, then, that there has been a law on the books since 2009 that addresses distraction related to cellphones specifically.
The distracted driving law bans all texting for drivers of any age. It also bans all cellphone usage for new drivers and bus drivers. Experienced drivers may dial a number to make a call from their vehicle. When a vehicle is in motion in Tennessee, it is illegal to read, compose or send a text message. Law enforcement can pull over anyone they suspect of texting while driving.
It's also important to note that law enforcement can request cellphone data records to determine if a phone was in use at the time of a crash. If you believe someone who caused a crash with your vehicle was distracted at the time, make sure you advise law enforcement of your concerns and explore your options for holding the distracted driver accountable.