Lundberg’s bill to give Tennessee drivers their cellphones back needs to be put on hold

Published 8:13 am Monday, January 27, 2020

One of the most impactful laws passed in Tennessee in 2019 was the Hands-Free Tennessee Act, which made it illegal to talk on your phone while driving.
Now, a state lawmaker wants to repeal it.
Senator Jon Lundberg, a Republican from Bristol, filed legislation on Tuesday that would repeal the hands-free law and returns the law to what it was previously.
The law, prohibiting the use of hand-held telephones, went into effect on July 1, 2019. Essentially, drivers are not allowed to hold an electronic device in their hands for any reason while the car is in motion, including navigation. They may use hands-free devices like Bluetooth or a smartwatch to take calls.
Sen. Lundberg said he disagreed with the law from the beginning, because he thinks when you are talking on the phone, you can still look around.
Ironically, the wireless communication device has tethered us in a way the corded phone never did. Ostensibly, yes, it makes us free to go anywhere and do anything without losing touch. In reality, it chains us to the things we might like to escape.
If drivers aren’t talking on their cellphones, they’re checking them for messages or sending text messages of their own. How thoughtless, how stupid, how dangerous.
Law enforcement has tried to get a handle on this problem. But the facts of the matter are that there are too many motorists using their cellphones and not enough police to catch them doing it.
And that is why banning certain cellphone use while driving is a good thing. The purpose of the law is to make drivers keep their eyes on the road, not looking at a screen.
The law’s purpose is to make it reflex to not use your phone while you’re driving, the same way people now unthinkingly buckle seat belts that were once afterthoughts.
Suffice it to say, motorists who receive traffic citations aren’t happy about it. But society has a right not to be happy with those motorists who ignore the law as well as the rules of common sense regarding driving and cellphone use.
According to a study by the National Traffic Administration, Tennessee is the worst state for distracted driving. According to Hands Free Tennessee, in 2018 there were more than 24,000 crashes that involved a distracted driver.
Who among us hasn’t witnessed a motorist using a cellphone, gabbing away and oblivious to the traffic around them? Or worse still, steadying their smartphone on the steering wheel as they check email or respond to a text? It’s a disturbing sight to see.
Cellphones seem to have a peculiar impact on people, almost speeding up their pattern of life to the point where they feel compelled to be constantly checking their phones, taking calls or exchanging tests.
We cannot believe that Sen. Lundberg wants to give drivers their cellphones again. He sees the bill as a threat to freedom on the roads.
If drivers get their phones back, driving will again become more risky than it otherwise ought to be. For now, Lundberg’s bill should be put on hold.

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