Hands-free bill to curb distracted driving gains momentum
Published 9:16 am Wednesday, February 24, 2016
Tennesseans that pass time in the driver’s seat doubling as a DJ, navigator, event planner and social media wizard may have to set their skills to rest if legislation to curb distracted driving passes through the Tennessee General Assembly.
The “hands-free” amendment (H.B.1566./S.B.1655) sponsored by State Representative John Holsclaw (R-Elizabethton) passed approval this month in the House Transportation Subcommittee.
Though Tennessee already has a law banning texting while driving, law enforcement officers have found it challenging to ascertain whether a person is texting, receiving a call, checking a map or any number of currently legal activities on their mobile devices.
“What makes the texting-while-driving law difficult is determining whether someone is texting or answering a call,” said Elizabethton Police Chief Greg Workman. “If we pull someone over, we want to be accurate in what we’re pulling them over for. It is very possible this could curb distracted driving accidents.”
The legislation would require drivers to use a hands-free device or set their phones to hands-free mode while driving. State law would continue to be in effect regarding drivers under the age of 18 who are not allowed to use cellphones in any context while driving.
The law would also make it a delinquent offense for minors under the age of 18 to use a cellphone even with a hands-free device while driving. Fines for offenders would be $50 with no points added to their driving records.
“I would like to sincerely thank all of the members of the House Transportation Subcommittee for joining me in support of this legislation today,” Holsclaw said in a press release. “I believe it is vitally important for our state to take this next step in curbing distracted driving and working to save lives across the state.”
“However, we cannot stop here,” Holsclaw continued. “We still have several committees in front of us where we must receive approval before this legislation is sent to the Governor’s desk.”
“I encourage supporters across the state to please contact their local Senators and Representatives and ask them to join us in this important fight to save lives,” he added.
The bill will go before the Transportation Committee Tuesday, March 1.