Tennessee Has the Most Distracted Driving Accidents – What Is It Doing About It?
Despite increased public awareness and the efforts of law enforcement, distracted driving continues to be a major problem in Tennessee and throughout the U.S., leading to serious and potentially life threatening car accidents and injuries.
The following is important information you need to know about how distracted driving accidents occur, how common they are in our area, and what the state is doing to prevent them.
Distracted Driving Facts
Distracted driving is considered to be any activity that diverts your attention from the task of driving, such as using a cellphone, texting, adjusting GPS settings, eating or drinking behind the wheel, or even talking to other passengers.
The latest statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicate that distracted driving is one of the leading causes of car accidents in the U.S., causing serious and potentially life-threatening injuries for more than 1,000 drivers and their passengers each day.
The CDC states that while there are a variety of activities that drivers engage in that put themselves and others at risk, there are three main types of driving distractions:
- Visual distractions, which is anything that causes you to take your eyes off the road.
- Manual distractions, which is anything that causes you to remove your hands from the steering wheel.
- Cognitive distractions, which is anything that diverts your thoughts and attention from the road and what is going on around you, distracting you from potentially hazardous conditions that may lie ahead.
Engaging in any activity can increase the odds that an accident will occur, but texting and driving is particularly dangerous, as it involves all three types of distractions.
Distracted Driving Accidents in Tennessee
Unfortunately, while distracted driving is a problem on roads, highways, and interstates throughout the country, recent news reports indicate that drivers in Tennessee are among the worst offenders.
A February 2017 News Channel 5 report on distracted driving cites national studies, which show these types of accidents have reached epidemic proportions, and that Tennessee leads the nation in the overall number of cellphone-related fatalities. The statistics in the report are alarming:
- More than 40,000 motor vehicle deaths occurred nationwide in 2016.
- This is a jump of more than 14 percent over just two years ago.
- It is the highest increase in driver fatalities in over four decades.
- Tennessee Highway Patrol (THP) attributes at least part of that increase to distracted driving accidents.
A November 2016 WRCB-TV news story illustrates the devastating effects these accidents can have. The story provides details about a mother and three children were hit by a distracted driver while stopped at an intersection. The driver apparently did not even slow down before rear-ending their vehicle, and the force of the crash killed her 9-year-old daughter, while causing severe injuries to her youngest child.
While texting and driving laws were enacted in Tennessee in 2009, they fail to address other forms of distracted driving, such as talking on cellphones and other activities that divert attention from the road. As part of its reporting, WRCB conducted its own investigations. While observing drivers from an overpass in Nashville during morning rush hour, they spotted more than 40 instances of distracted driving in less than three minutes.
How Tennessee Is Working to Prevent Distracted Driving
Even with the texting ban in place, the penalties are not severe enough to discourage drivers. Fines are between $10 and $50, and the ticket does not add any points on the driver’s license. To increase penalties, Tennessee Highway Patrol has begun citing distracted drivers for “failure to exercise due care,” which carries fines of up to $500. By the end of 2016, they had given out close to 3,000 of these tickets.
Other actions that are being taken to reduce distracted driving in Tennessee include the following:
- A “textalyzer” bill, which Nashville Public Radio reports is sponsored by State Sen. Lee Harris, D-Memphis, and would give police the power to inspect drivers’ phones at accident scenes to see if they had been texting or making calls in the moments before the accident occurred.
- A message sign contest, sponsored by the Tennessee Department of Transportation, which allows citizens to submit their own ideas for safety messages addressing issues such as distracted driving to be placed on the dynamic message signs on area interstates.
- A coach bus, used by the Tennessee Highway Patrol, which gives troopers a higher vantage point for spotting distracted driving as it occurs. The troopers then notify Metro police officers, who apprehend the driver based on the information provided.
April is designated as Distracted Driving Prevention Month in Tennessee. During this time, the Tennessee Governor’s Highway Safety Office encourages the community to take part in its Thumbs Down social media campaign, by sharing statistics and information on Facebook and Twitter about the dangers of distracted driving.
Reach Out to Us for Assistance Today
If you or someone you care about is injured as the result of a distracted driving accident, contact Bill Easterly & Associates today. Our Tennessee car accident lawyers understand the devastating impacts these accidents can have, and we will work aggressively to help you recover compensation. We also take a hands-on approach with every case, attending to the details and going the extra mile in investigating your claim, so that you can rest easy and focus on your recovery.