According to Department of Safety and Homeland Security figures, Tennessee crash rates due to distracted driving generally peaked around 2015 and 2016. This is true for Davidson county, which had a peak figure of 2,873 in 2016. In many counties, but not all, rates have improved. Tennessee still has a way to go, since our state is in the top ten states for distracted driving.
Shelby County, which includes Memphis, has shown a steady increase year by year since 2009. Last year 7,904 crashes in Shelby County were caused by distracted driving. In the same period, Davidson County had 2,213 distracted driving crashes, over 650 fewer than its peak in 2015. A large part of the difference in numbers is due to Memphis’ larger population, but clearly, Nashville is doing better, while Memphis numbers have worsened.
An overall decrease is a good thing, but the state’s goal is to eradicate crashes caused by using cell phones while driving. This summer’s enactment of the Tennessee Hands-Free Law makes it illegal to hold and use your phone. Police and THP can fine you $200 for using your phone while driving if you are not using a hands-free device.
As we reported last summer, the hands-free driving law is an important step in increasing awareness of the dangers of phone use and driving. National Highway Safety Administration data (NHTSA) clearly show that distracted driving is lethal. This quote from the NHTSA lays out just why texting is especially dangerous:
Texting is the most alarming distraction. Sending or reading a text takes your eyes off the road for 5 seconds. At 55 mph, that’s like driving the length of an entire football field with your eyes closed.
It is not surprising that a Car and Driver Magazine test showed that texting and driving can diminish driver focus more than being legally drunk. Let’s be clear, this is not to say that anyone should drive drunk—that too impairs your driving. But it is important to understand that anything that takes your eyes off the road is a danger.
Stillman and Friedland advocates not only against the main cause of distracted driving, cell phone use but also against other causes of distraction. For teens, the more kids in one car, the higher the likelihood of a crash. For parents, turning to see what kids are up to in the backseat can cause accidents. Any other non-driving activities should be avoided, including eating while driving.
Our business is helping people put their lives back together after an accident turns their lives upside down. Accidents happen on ordinary days that turn out to be anything but ordinary. We urge Tennesseans to drive responsibly for their own sake and for the safety of others on the road. Every day is a day to drive with clarity and focus, to the best of your ability.
And, hey Memphis, step up! We love all Tennesseans.
Because we care…