A new law aimed at eliminating distracted driving-related deaths and injuries goes into effect on July 1.
Tennessee’s new “Hands Free Law” makes it illegal for a driver to:
- Hold a cellphone or mobile device with any part of their body.
- Write, send or read any text-based communication.
- Reach for a cellphone or mobile device in a manner that requires the driver to no longer be in a seated driving position or properly restrained by a seat belt.
- Watch a video or movie on a cellphone or mobile device.
- Record or broadcast video on a cellphone or mobile device.
- A violation of this law would lead an offender receiving a $50 fine for the first and second offense. After the third offense or a violation that leads to a crash, drivers can be fined $100.
If a violation of the “Hands Free Law” occurs in a work zone when workers are present or in a marked school zone with the flashers on, then the fine is $200.
Each violation of the law leads to 3 points being added to the offender’s driving record.
The new law does not prohibit people 18 years of age or older from using an earpiece, headphone device, or device worn on a wrist to conduct voice-based communication.
Drivers may also use one button on a wireless cellphone or mobile device to pick up or end a call and send text messages using voice-based communication.
News Channel 11’s Blake Lipton spoke with local retailers to find out “hands-free” friendly devices you can use to communicate safely and effectively under the new law.
Assistant Manager of Best Buy on People’s Street in Johnson City, Ben Carder, told us Bluetooth headphones or headsets are popular options.
“I think we roughly carry 150 different Bluetooth technology devices,” said Carder.
Common headphone or headset fits include in-ear, over-the-ear, on-ear, open-ear or behind the neck.
Carder said you will see completely wireless options or options that use a single wire.
These can run you anywhere from around $50 to $200.
“You just simply go into your settings where Bluetooth is, and the pairing sequence is really easy,” said Carder. “There’s a button you push, it takes about 30 seconds, if not less than that, and it just syncs up immediately, so anytime that you make a call, it would automatically just go to the headset.”
Carder said installing a brand-new Bluetooth stereo is also a cost-effective option.
Product and installation can cost at least $250.
“In a hands-free option, any hands-free option is going to be the safest bet,” said Anthony DeCandia, manager of Audio Underground.” Nobody wants to drive around behind somebody with a phone in their hand or steering with their knee.”
Those looking to keep their factory radios can invest in a Bluetooth adapter for their car.
“They would put their car on an 88.3 or an 89.1 with our little box integrated and hook up their cell phone to it and then could talk freely without having to touch their cell phone every time they get in a car,” said DeCandia.
The standard mobile device mount can also be a safe and cheap hands-free option to take calls, permitted you use one button on a cell phone or mobile device to pick up or end a call.
Many newer car models already have built-in Bluetooth and voice-enabling speakers as well.
The new “Hands Free Law” does not apply to law enforcement officers, campus police officers and public safety officers, emergency medical technicians and paramedics, firefighters, emergency management agency officers, employees or contractors of utility services who are all in the actual discharge of their official duties and people who are lawfully stopped or parked in their vehicles or who lawfully leave standing their motor vehicles.
For more information, visit the Hands Free Tennessee website by clicking here.