The United States Department of Transportation (US DOT) started the Faces of Distracted Driving program in 2010 to help people across Tennessee and the rest of the U.S. ‘get the message’ about distracted driving. Through public service announcements and video testimonials by those who’ve lost loved ones due to distracted driving, the US DOT hopes to convince more people to just put it (a cell phone) down and save your call or text until you’re not driving.
The US DOT recently released the latest segment of the Faces campaign – the story of 9-year old Erica Forney of Fort Collins, Colorado. Erica was riding her bike when a neighbor driving an SUV took a moment to look away from the road and at her cell phone. The driver hit Erica, threw her 15 feet where she landed on her neck. Erica’s injuries were fatal; she died two days later.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported that in 2009, nearly 5,500 people were killed and another approximately 450,000 were injured in motor vehicle accidents involving some form of distracted driving. Of those who were killed, approximately 1 of every 6 was involved in a car accident in which a cell phone was noted as the cause of the distraction.
What is Distracted Driving?
Distracted driving is any non-driving activity that takes your focus off the road, and includes three types of distractions:
- Visual distractions: those that take your eyes off the road
- Manual distractions: those that take your hands off the wheel
- Cognitive distractions: those that take your mind of the road and off the task at hand – driving
While most efforts, along with those of the US DOT, focus on driver distractions caused by cell phones, more than phones contribute to the problem of distracted driving. Eating, drinking coffee, applying makeup, checking a map or GPS all take a driver’s focus off the road ahead as well as his or her hands off the wheel.
Distracted Driving Laws in Tennessee
Currently, bus drivers and novice drivers are completely prohibited from using a cell phone to text or make calls while behind the wheel. Neither a handheld nor a hands-free device is allowed. A novice driver is a driver with a learner’s permit or intermediate license.
Texting is illegal for all drivers in Tennessee, regardless of the type of license held, or the type of vehicle being driven.