Tennessee was recently given an unfortunate distinction – the worst state for distracted driving among all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Value Penguin recently released a study analyzing deaths in each state related to cell phone use between 2015-2017, and Tennessee did not perform well when compared to other states.
Between 2015-2017, there were over 1,400 fatalities nationwide involving some form of distracted driving. Distracted driving is defined by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration as “any activity that diverts attention from driving.” It encompasses many acts while operating a motor vehicle, including cell phone use, texting while driving, looking down at GPS, changing the radio station, eating, talking on the phone or to passengers, or engaging in any conduct that can take your eyes off the road.
Tennessee had the highest distracted driving fatality rate in the country, according to the comprehensive study. The average for all states was 1.49 fatalities per 10 billion vehicle miles. Tennessee’s rate was nearly five times as high, coming in at 7.20 fatalities per 10 billion miles. The next highest states were Delaware (3.28 fatalities), Wyoming (3.22 fatalities), Texas (3.00 fatalities), and Montana (2.91 fatalities). During the surveyed period of time, these five states were responsible for 31% of all distracted driving related fatalities, an astonishingly high number.
Interestingly, the study found a correlation between states with strict distracted driving laws and lower rates of distracted driving deaths. For instance, 13 states with the strictest regulations regarding distracted driving had fatality rates nearly 30% lower than the states with looser regulations. An example of a strict rule against distracted driving is a complete ban on any cell phone use in the vehicle. States with complete bans had fatality rates nearly 44% lower than states without complete bans.
Is Tennessee doing enough to protect motorists and save lives? To combat distracted driving, the Tennessee legislature has passed laws designed to limit cell phone use in the car. For example, in Tennessee it is against the law entirely to text while driving. The Tennessee ban on texting while driving applies to all drivers. Drivers with a learner’s permit or intermediate licenses are subject to a ban on using their cell phone while driving. For drivers in Tennessee, there is also a handheld ban that applies in school zones while the lights are flashing. However, Tennessee does not have a complete ban on cell phone use inside the vehicle.
In a distracted driving car accident in Memphis or elsewhere in Tennessee, the victim will need to prove the other driver was distracted, and this can be accomplished with the help of an experienced car accident lawyer. In terms of texting while driving, you could subpoena cell phone records and if the other driver was texting, establish negligence per se, which means negligence as a matter of law. If the driver was engaging in another form of distraction, you could still meet your legal burden of proof by showing that the driver failed to act reasonably under the circumstances by choosing to focus on something other than the road.
We should all strive to pay attention behind the wheel; otherwise, disastrous results can occur. Always focus on the road and your surroundings before taking other actions, and it is never recommended to text while driving. If you have been injured in a motor vehicle accident, call Nahon, Saharovich & Trotz. Our car accident lawyers handle cases throughout Tennessee, including Memphis, Knoxville, Jackson, Nashville, Murfreesboro, Chattanooga, and communities in between. Our dedicated team is available 24/7 to discuss the facts of your case and legal options by calling 800-529-4004 or completing our online form.