Tennessee SB 173 – Expands the current offense for talking on handheld devices while driving

Bill Location:
Bill Title:

Expands the current offense for talking on handheld devices while driving within marked school zones to talking on such devices on any road, highway, or street. - Amends TCA Title 55, Chapter 10 and Title 55, Chapter 8.

Full Bill Text ›
NMA Recommendation:

UPDATE May 29, 2019: Became Public Chapter 412.

UPDATE May 13, 2019: Transmitted to Governor.

UPDATE May 8, 2019: Companion bill, HB 164, signed by Speaker of the House.

UPDATE April 30, 2019: Placed on Senate regular calendar; companion House Bill substituted.

UPDATE April 9, 2019: Action deferred in Committee.

UPDATE April 3, 2019: Placed on Senate Finance, Ways, and Means Committee calendar for April 9th hearing.

UPDATE March 27, 2019: The Senate Transportation Committee recommended passage in a 5 to 2 vote. The bill has been referred to the Senate Finance, Ways & Means Committee.

SB 173 was introduced in the state senate on January 28, 2019. It passed first and second consideration and has been referred to the Senate Transportation and Safety Committee.

It’s counterpart bill in the House, HB 164, has been referred to the Transportation Committee’s Safety & Funding Subcommittee.

Both SB 173 and HB 164 would make it an offense to talk on a handheld mobile phone while operating an “in motion” vehicle or for a person under the age of 18 to do the same regardless of whether the phone is handheld or hands-free. The bills also stipulate misdemeanor penalties.

The NMA supports the distracted driving laws that all states have in their statutes but opposes new laws that single out specific behaviors that may or may not cause distractions for some individuals. If a driver is operating a vehicle in a manner that puts him/herself or others at risk, then that should be a violation per existing distracted driving laws. But citing drivers in anticipation of unsafe driving rather than actual unsafe driving is penalizing many who are innocent of a distracted driving charge. In addition, insurance industry studies have shown that texting bans, let alone handheld bans, are ineffective


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