Hands Free in Tennessee: What drivers need to know about the new phone law

(Image: WTVC)

Life behind the wheel is about to change for Tennessee drivers. We're just days from Tennessee's Hands Free law going into effect on July 1.

Similar to a law that went into effect in Georgia a year ago, the new law makes it illegal to hold a phone in your hand - or with any other part of your body - while driving in Tennessee.

Instead, you'll have to either use Bluetooth or simply put your phone on speaker.

Police lights and sirens - a sight and sound you don't want in your rearview mirror.

Corita Wallace and her 18-year-old daughter did.

"To myself, I thought, they are going really fast," says Wallace.

She was sitting on at a stop sign when someone slammed into the back of their car.

The reason? Distracted driving.

"When I read the police report, I had seen that you know she was doing multiple things - talking, eating, on the phone," says Wallace.

Sergeant Evie West with the Cleveland Police Department says as of July 1st, she hopes accidents like this come to a halt.

"You're looking at avoiding property damage, avoiding wrecks with injuries, avoiding fatalities," says Sgt. West.

West says the new Tennessee law allows drivers to touch one button on a mobile device to start or end a call.

"I could be driving and talking to him while on speaker phone," says Sgt. West.

But she says if you need to you use your phone in any other way, to pull over and put your car in park.

This way, you can focus on the one thing you were meant to do on the roads anyway: driving.

It's something Corita Wallace wishes the driver who damaged her car already knew.

"I'm feeling more confident that you know our streets are going to be a little safer," she says.

One kind of call that IS allowed is talking to emergency responders or dispatchers in a situation that "threatens human health, life, or property."

The new law says listening to music is allowed, but you cannot watch or record vehicles while behind the wheel.

The law also allows for police, public safety officers, emergency responders, and utility service providers to use phones while doing their jobs.

If you are caught using your phone and are pulled over, you can get 3 points on your driving record for each violation. Fines for violating the law include a $50 fine for a first time offense, $100 for the third and following offenses and/or if it leads to a crash, and a $200 fine if it happens in a work zone with workers present or a school zone while lights are flashing.

You can learn more on the Hands Free Tennessee website here.

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