Tennessee Distracted Driving Law & Your Car Insurance Rates

November 9, 2012

Those busted for texting while driving could soon pay more for car insurance.

Our Knoxville personal injury lawyers understand distracted driving is responsible for a significant portion of traffic crashes. The U.S. Department of Transportation estimates drivers using a hand-held cell phone are 4 times more likely to be involved in an accident; those texting behind the wheel face a 23-times greater risk of an injury crash.

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Tennessee's distracted driving law makes it a primary offense to text while driving -- meaning you can be pulled over and cited. Drivers under the age of 18 are banned from all hand-held cell phone use behind the wheel.

FOX Business reports insurance companies are moving quickly to use such citations as a reason to increase the cost of your car-insurance policy. The industry already uses a wide variety of moving violations to rate a driver's risk. A DUI conviction, for example, can double or even triple the cost of auto insurance. Under Tennessee's driver's license points system, drivers also accumulate points for various moving violations, which in turn can result in a premium increase.

Speeding citations are 1-8 points depending on how far over the limit a driver was traveling; reckless driving is six points; driving with a canceled license or fleeing a law enforcement officer will result in 8 points. Anyone accumulating 12 or more points faces a suspended license, in addition to whatever penalties may be assessed upon conviction for the underlying charge.

The state's distracted-driving law, which passed earlier this year, makes distracted driving a non-moving violation for which no points are assigned. However, that doesn't mean your insurance company will not raise your rates.

When it comes to texting drivers, the insurance industry is pushing hard for tougher sanctions. However, enforcement challenges continue to exist in states like Tennessee, where a hybrid law permits some drivers to continue to use cell phones. Frequently, the officer cannot determine whether a motorist is texting or dialing a phone. A motorist's age is also difficult to determine when an officer is faced with whether to stop a suspected minor for a cell-phone violation.

The Governors Highway Safety Association reports Tennessee is one of about two dozen states that have such mixed laws on the books; 10 states now ban all drivers from using a hand-held cell phone. In an effort aimed at developing effective enforcement measures, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced last month it would spend $550,000 to fund two pilot-enforcement programs in Connecticut and Massachusetts.

"These two new demonstration programs will help identify real-world protocols and practices to better detect if a person is texting while driving," said NHTSA Administrator David Strickland.

Education campaigns and high-visibility enforcement campaigns will be conducted for 24 months and the results will be shared with states facing similar enforcement challenges.

The bottom line is cell phone use while driving is dangerous -- particularly if a driver is text messaging. If you can't stop reaching for your phone, the insurance industry will have you reaching for your wallet.

If you are involved in a Tennessee traffic accident, contact Hartsoe Law Firm, P.C. for a confidential consultation to discuss your rights at (865) 524-5657

Additional Resources:

U Text and Drive? Expect Higher Car Insurance, By Don Hanzlik, Fox Business, Oct. 17, 2012.