Officers find loophole for texting and driving tickets

Officers find loophole for texting and driving tickets

Quick Summary

Tennessee is ranked first in the United States for the most dangerous state for phone-related traffic accidents. Let that sink in! A report from the National Safety Council states that drivers in Tennessee have more of these types of accidents than drivers in any other state. Cell phone use while driving might seem like a tiny bit of multitasking, but driving is never the right time to multitask. Driving naturally has its own demands for multitasking while your life and other lives are on the line. In this blog, we discuss how officers in Tennessee are giving citations for texting and driving under the Due Care Law.

“It won’t happen to me”

Even though mainstream media constantly discourages us from using our phones while driving, people tend to believe that an accident won’t happen to them. They think that they have complete control of their divided attention between the road and their text conversation. But even the most seasoned driver cannot text and drive safely. Car crashes are the single largest cause of death for people in Tennessee from the age of 17 to 34 years old.

The challenge for officers

If you’re driving, you’ve most likely seen someone on their phones. Remember that car that was going super slow in front of you and when you went to go around them, you saw them looking down on their phone? Often times, these drivers don’t get caught. It’s a big challenge to impose the law to discourage cell phone use because people don’t want to admit to being on their phones while driving. And let’s face it, people don’t like to admit that they were on their phones especially when a collision happens.

So, how do Tennessee officers issue texting and driving tickets? They issue “Due Care Law” citations instead.

What is the Due Care Law?

The Due Care Law is a law that encompasses several distracted driving acts since distracted driving is more than just cell phone use. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there are three types of distractions:

  • Visual – eyes off the road
  • Manual – hands off the wheel
  • Cognitive – mind off of driving

Under the law, all three distractions are prohibited. The law requires that drivers maintain the following:

  • Drive at a safe speed
  • Keep a safe lookout for surroundings
  • Maintain proper control of the vehicle
  • Give their undivided attention to the road
  • Use necessary precautions to protect life, property and to avoid collisions with people, fixed objects and other cars.

The Consequences

Due Care offenders can be penalized with a fine up to $50, plus full court fees and up to 30 days in jail. Currently, texting and driving is a Class C misdemeanor, which is punishable by up to a $50 fine. It’s also a Class C misdemeanor if a driver uses their phone in an active school zone. Distracted driving becomes a Class B misdemeanor if the violation results in serious injury to a pedestrian or bicyclist. It becomes a Class A misdemeanor if it results in a person’s death.

The Data

Data from 2015 to 2017 show the differences in numbers between texting/distracted driving citations and citations given under the Due Care Law.

 

Metropolitan Nashville Police Department (texting/distracted driving citations)

  • 2015 – 137 citations
  • 2016 – 140 citations
  • 2017 – 149 citations


Metropolitan Nashville Police Department (“due care” citations)

  • 2015: 5,722 citations
  • 2016: 11,581 citations
  • 2017: 15,897 citations


It’s not just local police departments, either. Here’s the breakdown for the state troopers.

State Trooper (texting/distracted driving citations)

  • 2015: 1,722 citations
  • 2016: 1,968 citations
  • 2017: 3,557 citations


State Trooper (“due care” citations)

  • 2015: 5,722 citations
  • 2016: 11,581 citations
  • 2017: 15,897 citations

These numbers show significant differences in the difficulty issuing specific texting and driving citations as opposed to issuing more generalized citations under the Due Care Law.

If you’ve been issued a citation in Tennessee, check out our 4-hour Defensive Driving Course in order to eliminate points from your license!

Also, check out our blogs on defensive driving: