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Distracted Driving 101

August 23, 2019

Each day in the United States, this type of driving causes more than 1,000 injuries and around nine deaths. If you think we’re talking about drunk driving, you’re mistaken. We’re actually talking about distracted driving.

Distracted driving may get less headlines than driving while intoxicated, but it’s no less dangerous. In fact, in recent years, accidents caused by distracted drivers—including those who are texting while driving—have been on the increase.

That has led to the advent of many new laws designed to cut down on distracted driving, such as the new Tennessee law that went into effect on July 1.

Let’s take a deeper dive into what distracted driving is, why it’s so dangerous, and what the new Hands Free Tennessee law means for you.

What Exactly Is Distracted Driving?
It’s pretty much what it sounds like. It’s defined as driving while doing any other activity that takes your full attention away from driving. 

That includes texting and using your phone while driving, but also any number of other activities that divert your attention, even for a moment.

The CDC divides distractions into three categories:

  • Visual, which are those distractions that take your eyes off the road
  • Manual, which are those distractions that take your hands off the wheel
  • Cognitive, which are those distractions that take your mind off driving

Activities often fall within multiple categories. That’s especially true for texting, since it usually requires you to look at the phone, take at least one hand off the wheel, and focus at least somewhat on your reply to a text.

Anything that draws your attention away from driving is considered distracted driving. This includes texting, using the phone, changing the radio station or adjusting the volume, applying makeup or brushing your hair, using a GPS, or even eating or drinking.

The Dangers of Distracted Driving
It logically makes sense, given the very nature of distraction, that distraction while driving a motor vehicle is dangerous.

But the numbers related to distracted driving make that even more obvious:

  • Each day, nine people in the United States are killed in a crash involving a distracted driver.
  • More than 1,000 Americans are injured each day in a crash involving a distracted driver.
  • In total in the year 2017, 3,166 Americans died as the result of a distracted driving accident.
  • Of those deaths, 297 of them were the result of a crash that involved a distracted teenage driver.
  • If you’re driving at 55 mph, sending or reading a text takes your eyes off the road for five seconds—or the length of time needed to cover the equivalent of a football field in distance.
  • In Tennessee, there were 24,600 crashes in 2018 involving a distracted driver.

Sobering facts, right?

It’s also important to consider that distracted driving is most common among younger drivers, who are already a little unsteady and unpracticed in their driving habits. This simply compounds the problem.

What Hands Free Tennessee Means to You
Ending distracted driving is simple—just DON’T do it! For the length of time you’re driving a car, put your phone and other distractions away. 

If you need to make a call, do it using Bluetooth technology that doesn’t require you to touch the phone at all. This at least removes the “manual” distraction component.

As of July 1, drivers in the state of Tennessee are under the “Hands Free Tennessee” law, which mandates that drivers cannot touch the phone while driving.

Specifically, the law makes it illegal to:

  • hold a mobile device or cellphone with any part of the body
  • write, send, or read text-based communication
  • reach for a mobile device in a way that takes you out of a seated position or not within your seatbelt
  • watch a video on a mobile device
  • record a video on a mobile device

Drivers are still able to make or take phone calls using a Bluetooth device, either through an earpiece, headphones, the car audio, or a wrist device. To do so, they are legally able to press one button to initiate the call and one button to terminate it.

They may also use voice-based technology to send and receive text messages, as well as listen to music or GPS directions through the Bluetooth device.

It’s time to put down the phone! Learn more about the dangers of distracted driving and the new Hands Free Tennessee law at