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Texting and Driving

Tennessee Laws


Hispanic woman driving and using cell phone
Blend Images/Sollina Images/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images
According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, in 2011, nearly 400,000 people were injured or killed in car accidents involving a distracted driver. While "distracted driving" includes texting, it also includes any activity that takes your attention away from the road. Examples of these activities are: using a phone in any manner, eating, drinking, talking, applying makeup, reading, looking at maps, using a gps, and adjusting the radio. In fact, studies suggest that even just talking on the phone reduces your attention to driving by 37%--certainly enough to potentially cause problems. Nevertheless, many of us do it every single day.

In Tennessee, distracted driving laws are specific to texting. This does not mean that you won't be held responsible if you crash your vehicle while putting on makeup--it just means that texting while driving is specifically outlawed and you can be ticketed for it whether you are involved in a crash or not.

Depending upon how old you are and what you are driving, there are also state laws prohibiting any cell phone use while driving. Check the Tennessee driving laws below to find out what is and isn't allowed while driving.

  • Texting while driving is prohibited for all drivers in all vehicles in the state of Tennessee. This law considers even reading a text message to be texting. The exception to this rule is typing or reading a name or phone number for the purpose of making a phone call.
  • Drivers with a learner's permit or an intermediate license are not allowed to use a cell phone for any purpose while driving.
  • School bus drivers are prohibited from using a cell phone while driving except in cases of emergency.

Unlike a DUI which carries much stiffer penalties, texting while driving is a Class C misdemeanor in Tennessee and is subject to a $50 fine plus court costs, if applicable. It is, however, a non-moving violation and does not add points to your driving record.

It goes without saying that regardless of legal consequences, any distractions while driving should be eliminated or kept to a minimum. The phone call, the makeup, and the text message can wait.

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