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  • Writer's pictureRobert Schuerger II

Is Texting and Driving Illegal in Tennessee? What One Must Understand

Distracted driving is one of the most common road hazards nationwide. However, Tennessee drivers could be at a high risk of getting injured when these crashes occur.

One recent study indicates that Tennessee has the highest rate for distracted driving deaths within the nation. People suffer about five times more in collisions because of distracted drivers. In 2018 alone, Tennessee had an average of 67 crashes relating to using a mobile device each day, and most of them were from a cell phone.

Overall, the biggest threat for drivers and passengers is sending text messages. However, recording videos, talking on the phone while driving, and using the internet can all be deadly or result in a crash.

Though it's legal to talk on the phone while driving in Tennessee, the state does have strict laws in place for using electronic devices. After getting injured because someone was negligent and using the phone while driving, it's best to contact Schuerger Shunnarah Trial Attorneys! The law firm goes to war for Nash! They can also help with questions like Is it illegal to sleep in your car in Tennessee?

Tennessee Laws That Prohibit Use of a Cellphone or Mobile Device

Tennessee Laws That Prohibit Use of a Cellphone or Mobile Device

Staying in contact with family and friends and accessing the internet from a cellphone or mobile device takes the driver's attention away from the road. It only takes a few seconds to send a text or record videos, but they could cause a crash that results in fatal or life-altering injuries. Most distracted driving accidents are preventable if drivers would wait to send emails or text until parking the vehicle.

There are many activities that Tennessee laws have prohibited while driving, such as:

  • Holding a phone with any part of the body

  • Calling others

  • Texting, which includes writing, sending, and reading messages

  • Holding the phone to view or use GPS

  • Watching, publishing, or recording videos

  • Reaching for a mobile device when the driver cannot be properly restrained

These laws are in place for everyone, including school bus drivers and commuters of any kind. To prevent crashes caused by electronic devices, the Tennessee Code includes several rules that regulate cell phone use while driving. They include:

Tennessee Hands-free Law for a Seated Driving Position

The state legislature passed the hands-free law prohibiting drivers 18 years and older from reaching for, holding, or supporting a phone while driving. This happened on July 1, 2019.

Likewise, it's illegal for the driver of a motor vehicle to record videos, watch videos, or send, write, and read text-based communication (including email). However, drivers can utilize a hands-free device, including headphones, earpieces, and smartwatches.

Novice Driver Laws

New drivers that have an intermediary license or a learner's permit and are taking or have recently taken the driver education course are at a high risk of causing an accident because of distracted driving. Therefore, they're not allowed to use a cell phone in any capacity while they drive.

Texting Ban

Texting and driving is one of the most common causes of severe accidents. Roughly 500,000 people each year in the US sustain a serious injury or die because of texting behind the wheel. Therefore, the Tennessee Highway Safety Office prohibits people from texting while driving, including a bus driver or commuter.

However, there are exceptions which allow some people to use a cell phone:

  • People lawfully parked or stopped or who have lawfully left the motor vehicle

  • Contractors and employees of utility service providers who must use their phones for employment

  • People using wireless telecommunication devices to speak with law enforcement agencies, fire departments, medical providers, and other emergency service agencies while driving (use must be a bona fide emergency, such as a natural or human occurrence that could threaten life, human health, and property)

  • Emergency management agency officers in any county, town, or city, when performing their normal duties

  • Emergency medical technicians, firefighters (career and volunteer), and emergency medical technician paramedics, when performing official duties

  • Public safety officers and campus police officers, when performing official duties

  • Officers of any city, county, or town that must enforce the laws of the state

  • Federal law enforcement officers performing official duties


Drivers must often use GPS applications on their phones and don't have in-car navigational systems. Though it's legal to use a smartphone as a GPS, it must be mounted on the windshield, dashboard, or center console. Otherwise, they risk becoming distracted drivers because they're looking at the device instead of watching the road.

Consequences of Distracted Driving and Breaking the Law

Consequences of Distracted Driving and Breaking the Law

Generally, texting while driving is a primary offense for those in Tennessee. Therefore, law enforcement agencies could pull a person over without witnessing any other moving traffic violation. As long as the police officer sees a person texting, they have probable cause.

Likewise, Homeland Security states that the District Attorney's Office can check anyone's phone records if they are suspected of distracted driving after a fatal crash or serious injury.

Penalties for violating Tennessee's hands-free law can include:

  • Charges for a Class C misdemeanor

  • Inability to apply for an unrestricted or intermediate driver's license for 90 more days after the eligibility date

  • Three demerit points added to a person's driving record for every violation

  • Tickets of up to $50 for a first and second offense, up to $100 for third violations and others involving an accident, and $200 if the violation occurs in work or school zones

When to Contact a Lawyer

Is texting and driving illegal in Tennessee? Yes, distracted driving in any form is prohibited, and Tennessee has created the hands-free law to help combat this dangerous practice. can answer other questions like Is brake checking illegal in Tennessee?

If someone was texting and driving and caused an auto accident, the victim could be eligible to get financial compensation. It's crucial to work with experienced auto accident lawyers in Nashville to check the driving record of the other party. They could get Class C misdemeanor charges against them.

However, the victim also has a right to compensation on top of the criminal charges. Therefore, it's wise to contact Schuerger Shunnarah Trial Attorneys for a free consultation. These lawyers work on a contingency fee basis, so they don't collect money until they secure financial recovery for the victim.


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