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It’s unlawful to operate your motor vehicle while texting and driving. It’s also unlawful to drive while using social media services, searching for music or doing other things that involve the manipulation of a smartphone. Not only is it illegal, it’s also very dangerous.

Numerous car accidents occur every day—some of them fatal— that are caused by this behavior. You may think it’s safe to quickly return a short text from a friend, however, as soon as you take your eyes off the road, a motorcycle appears out of nowhere. If something like this happened to you, you could be on the hook for stiff criminal and civil consequences.

Officers are using a bus to catch distracted drivers

Last month, in honor of National Distracted Driving Awareness Month, the Tennessee Highway Safety Office and the Tennessee Highway Patrol, conducted special safety patrols to issue distracted driving citations relating to smartphone use.

To get a better view of what drivers were doing with their hands, the officers boarded a Tennessee Highway Patrol painted bus and drove down I-26. From their higher vantage point, officers communicated with patrol cars to pull over and issue citations to motorists. Of the citation issues, 28 were for seat belt violations, and four related to texting while driving violations.

As for what Tennessee law says about cellphone use, all motorists in the state are banned from texting while driving. Meanwhile, bus drivers and new drivers are not permitted to even talk on their cellphones while driving. 

However, Tennessee’s cellphone driving laws are not at the same high standard as federal guidelines, and this—along with Tennessee’s failure to strictly enforce the law— has resulted in the state losing federal distracted driving grant money.

Just because you’re accused doesn’t mean you’re guilty

Just because you’re accused of texting while driving, doesn’t mean that you’re guilty of the offense. Although penalties for texting while driving are particularly light—$50 for a first offense—if your actions cause a serious or fatal accident, you could be subject to harsh criminal punishments.

If you’ve been accused of texting while driving in connection with a serious or fatal crash, it’s wise to seek help from a qualified Tennessee criminal defense attorney.