Tennessee’s Ban on Holding Mobile Phones while Driving – Takes Effect July 1, 2019

by Jun 24, 2019Community Engagement, Idealease, News, Safety, Truck Leasing, Truck Rental

Tennessee’s New Hands Free Law

In 2018, there were over 24,600 crashes involving a distracted driver in Tennessee. On average, that is sixty-seven crashes every single day. A recent study listed Tennessee as having the highest rate of distracted driving deaths in the nation – nearly five times the national average. Your phone can wait – your safety can’t.

Public Chapter 412 (SB 173/HB 164) prohibits drivers of all vehicles from holding their phone (a handheld electronic device) while their vehicle is in motion. The law, which goes into effect on July 1, does the following:

  • A driver cannot hold a phone in their hand or use any part of their body to support their phone, while their vehicle is in motion. Driver can only use their phones to make or receive phone calls by using a speakerphone, an earpiece, a wireless headphone, or a phone that is connected to the vehicle or an electronic watch. GPS navigation devices are allowed.
  • A driver may not send or read any text-based communication, including but not limited to, a text message, instant message, email, or internet data, unless using voice-based communication that automatically converts the message to a written text or is being used for navigation or GPS.
  • A driver may not reach for a wireless telecommunications device or stand-alone electronic device if it requires the driver to no longer be seated in a driving position or be in their seat belt.
  • A driver may not watch a video unless it is for navigation.
  • A driver may not record a video. Continuously running dash cams are exempt.
  • The current prohibition for drivers under the age of 18 from using any stand-alone electronic device or wireless telecommunication device at any time remains in effect.
  • The hands free prohibition would not apply to a radio, citizens band radio, citizens band radio hybrid, commercial two-way radio communication device or its functional equivalent, subscription-based emergency communication device, prescribed medical device, amateur or ham radio device, or in-vehicle security, navigation, autonomous technology, or remote diagnostics system.
  • The hands free prohibition does not apply to the use of a wireless telecommunications device or stand-alone electronic device if it is activated while it is mounted and it is activated or deactivated with the motion of one swipe or tap. This is the “one-touch” provision.
  • The hands free prohibition does not apply to: a first responder (law enforcement, fire, EMS) during the performance of their official duties; an employee or contractors of utility services providers acting within the scope of their employment; reporting a traffic crash, medical emergency, fire, or other emergency service agencies if the use is necessitated by a bona fide emergency, including a natural or human occurrence that threatens human health, life or property; and if a person is lawfully stopped or parked in their vehicle.
  • A violation is a Class C misdemeanor or a moving traffic violation, subject to a fine not to exceed $50 and 3 points. In lieu of any fine, a person upon their first offense may complete a driver education course.
  • A violation of a third offense or if the violation results in an accident, the fine is $100.
  • A violation in a school zone or construction work zone when employees are present is a fine of $200.
  • Takes effect July 1, 2019.

Frequently Asked Questions about Tennessee’s New Hands Free Law

  • Does this law make it illegal to use my phone while driving?
    No. This law would make it illegal to hold your phone while your vehicle is in motion. You can still use your phone by using a speaker phone, an ear piece, a wireless head phone, or a phone that is connected to the vehicle. You can touch your phone, swipe your phone and use it for navigation, it simply cannot be in your hand while your car is moving.
  • Can I send or read a text message?
    No. A driver may not send or read any text-based communication, including but not limited to, a text message, instant message, email, or internet data, unless using voice-based communication that automatically converts the message to a written text or is being used for navigation or GPS.
  • Can I use my phone for navigation?
    Yes, you can use your phone for navigation as long the phone is not in your hand while the car is moving.
  • What is the penalty or fines in the Hands Free law?
    A violation is a Class C misdemeanor or a moving traffic violation, subject to a fine not to exceed $50 and 3 points. In lieu of any fine, a person upon their first offense may complete a driver education course.
    A violation of a third offense or if the violation results in an accident, the fine is $100.
    A violation in a school zone or construction work zone when employees are present is a fine of $200.
  • Would I get points on my driving record for violating this law?
    Yes, you would get 3 points on your driving record for each violation. How many points does it take to get a suspended license? It takes 12 points to get your license suspended.
  • If I see an emergency can I have my phone in my hand to call 911?
    Yes, the hands free prohibition does not apply to anyone reporting a traffic crash, medical emergency, fire or calling other emergency service agencies if the use is necessitated by a bona fide emergency, including a natural or human occurrence that threatens human health, life or property.
  • If my car does not have blue tooth capabilities, are their apps that I can use voice activation on my phone?
    Yes, Android phone users can download Google Assistant for free that will allow them to use voice activation on their phone. iPhones come with voice activation capabilities. If I am stopped at a stop light or legally parked can I have my phone in my hand? Yes, if a person is lawfully stopped or parked in their vehicle they can have their phone in their hand.
  • Can I use my radio in the car or my citizens band radio?
    Yes, the hands free prohibition would not apply to a radio, citizens band radio, citizens band radio hybrid, commercial two-way radio communication device or its functional equivalent, subscription-based emergency communication device, prescribed medical device, amateur or ham radio device, or in-vehicle security, navigation, autonomous technology, or remote diagnostics system.
  • Can I watch a video on my phone while driving?
    No, a driver may not watch a video.
  • Can I record a video while driving?
    No, a driver may not record a video. Continuously running dash cams are exempt.
  • If my child is under the age of 18 how does this law impact them?
    The current prohibition for drivers under the age of 18 from using any stand-alone electronic device or wireless telecommunication device at any time remains in effect.
  • Are first responders exempt under this law?
    The hands free prohibition does not apply to: a first responder (law enforcement, fire, EMS) during the performance of their official duties; an employee or contractors of utility services providers acting within the scope of their employment
  • When does this law take effect?
    It takes effect on July 1, 2019.