Tennessee bill would outlaw using phone while driving

NASHVILLE - A Tennessee state senator says he knows there will be considerable resistance to a measure that would affect how most in the state behave on daily basis, but is pointing to hard numbers for why he's sponsoring the legislation.

Sen. Jim Tracy, R-Shelbyville, is sponsoring a bill for the second year that  would outlaw using a mobile phone with your hands while driving, and also attach a penalty for minors who are found guilty of the proposed infraction. The measure has already been delayed in the Senate once.

Tracy said he's going to delay the bill a couple of weeks to "work on some of the language," but says it's time to consider updating state laws as more people use hands-free devices while driving.

"I think people will have a hard time giving up their freedom," Tracy said.

The measure comes as Tennessee's distracted driving deaths have more than doubled since 2006. According to state data, more than 24,700 crashes were reported in 2016 that involved the driver being distracted, often connected to using a mobile device. That number is up from just over 10,500 in 2006.

Specifically, the bill would attach a $50 fine to the offense, and also place the same penalty on minors.

The companion bill in the House is sponsored by Rep. John Holsclaw Jr., R-Elizabethton, who's also carrying legislation that would increase the penalties for crashes that involve injury or death caused by using portable devices.

"I'm not going to give up on it, we're going to keep working it," Tracy said.

Tracy also sponsored legislation a couple of years ago that outlawed texting while driving.

Jake Lowary covers Tennessee politics and state government for the USA Today Network. Reach him at 615-881-7039 or follow him on Twitter @JakeLowary.

Tennessean


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