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Lawmakers looking to further curb distracted driving encounter opposition

If you think you’ve seen more squad cars out on the roads and highways over the last few weeks, it isn’t your imagination. Indeed, the Tennessee Highway Patrol along with local police departments are currently taking part in a statewide crackdown as part of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Distracted Driving Awareness Month, and the state Highway Safety Office’s Thumbs Down to Texting and Driving campaign.

While some might question the need for such an enforcement effort, consider that NHTSA statistics show that close to 3,500 people lost their lives while roughly 391,000 were injured as a result of distracting driving in 2015, the most recent year for which complete data is available.

Closer to home, the state Department of Safety & Homeland Security has found that the number of distracted driving-related crashes has more than doubled over the last decade from 10,573 in 2006 to 24,743 in 2016.

Interestingly enough, two lawmakers have introduced legislation that, if passed, would enhance the scope of the state’s distracted driving laws as they relate to cell phones, which currently only prohibit texting while driving.

The measure, sponsored by Sen. Jim Tracy (R-Shelbyville) and Rep. John Holsclaw (R-Elizabethton), would prohibit the use of handheld cell phones while driving, meaning no more holding your phone to your ear or in your hand on speaker while driving.

It would, however, allow motorists over 18 to use hands-free devices, a standard feature in many new vehicles.

Regardless of how you feel about this legislation, chances are good it won’t be limiting your ability to make a phone call on the way home from work or school anytime soon.

That’s because Tracy and Holsclaw recently requested that the bill be delayed so that it could be amended to apply only to drivers traveling in school zones with the lights activated.

As to why the lawmakers elected to water down their original legislation to such a considerable degree, they indicated that their colleagues were unreceptive to its far reach and that ban called for in the amended version, which always could be expanded over the years, stood a better chance of passing.

Stay tuned for updates …

If you’ve been seriously injured or lost a loved one in a car accident caused by a distracted driver, consider speaking with an experienced legal professional who can pursue justice.

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