“Troopers say just the slightest distraction can lead to a deadly crash.” So said NewsChannel5’s Dan Kennedy during a recent live report from North Nashville. According to Kennedy there were approximately 25,000 distracted driving crashes in Tennessee in 2017, which led to 120 deaths. That’s roughly the same number of crashes that involved a distracted driver in 2016.
Never mind the fact that distracted driving statistics almost certainly undercount the severity of the problem. There were at least 2,769 distracted driving crashes in Davidson County in 2017, plus 1,460 in Rutherford County and 1,134 in Williamson County, according to the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security.
April is Distracted Driving Month
But this month the Tennessee Highway Safety Office (THSO) and Tennessee Highway Patrol (THP) are stepping up enforcement of the state’s texting and driving law, which has been on the books since 2009 and “prohibits the use of a mobile telephone or personal digital assistant to transmit or read a written message while driving in Tennessee.”
“This initiative supports Tennessee’s mission to Drive to Zero, a multi-agency collaboration to decrease traffic fatalities statewide,” advises the THSO.
Predictably, last year’s enforcement effort attracted more than its share of media attention, as troopers rode around in tan buses emblazoned with the THP logo, which explains why it was billed as the “Distracted Driving Enforcement Bus Tour.” From their high vantage point in the buses, troopers were readily able to see drivers who were texting and driving. When they spotted an offender they radioed to fellow troopers in unmarked cars, who made the traffic stops and wrote tickets.
This year buses are again being utilized—in Rutherford County, Montgomery County and Sumner County. But enforcement officers will often be more circumspect in their efforts, as the THP will be providing multiple unmarked passenger vehicles to transport local law enforcement partners.
Distracted Driving Remains a Threat to Public Safety
As one might expect, distracted driving remains a grave threat to public safety—perhaps an even greater threat than before, thanks to Middle Tennessee’s meteoric growth.
“Tennessee is experiencing rapid increases in roadway use, roadway construction and traffic congestion,” advises THP Colonel Tracy Trott. “The slightest distraction could lead to a traffic crash that kills a pedestrian, construction worker, or another driver.”
In fact, the risks to pedestrians have been increasing in recent years, and 2017 was the deadliest year for pedestrians in the city’s history, with upwards of two dozen individuals killed on Nashville roads. This despite safety improvements at some of the most dangerous intersections, including the intersection of Nolensville Pike and Welshwood Drive.
Stopping Texting and Driving
As you may know, stopping texting and driving remains a personal passion of mine. It’s also why my firm sponsors an annual $1,000 video scholarship contest, with the 2018 winner to be announced towards the end of this month.
Meanwhile, if you are in the bad habit of texting and driving, I further encourage you to take THSO’s advice and “Put your mobile phone away. Pull over if you need to make a phone call or send a text message.”
THSO also has other helpful tips for remaining focused and alert while driving:
– Set your GPS in advance
– Safely secure child passengers and pets
– Eat beforehand, not while driving
Last but not least, if you or a family member has had the misfortune of being hit by a distracted driver—while in a car, on a bicycle, or on foot—don’t hesitate to give my firm a call at (615) 256-6666. We will fight to get you justice!