NASHVILLE, Tenn. - State lawmakers are considering legislation Tuesday that would prohibit sending or receiving text messages while driving on Tennessee highways.
The measure, sponsored by Republican Senator Jim Tracy of Shelbyville, passed the Senate Transportation Committee 6-2 Tuesday morning.
The companion bill was also scheduled to be heard Tuesday in a House subcommittee.
Senator Tracy says the legislation would strengthen current law that bans bus drivers and teenagers from talking on cell phones while driving.
He said driving while texting has resulted in two deaths in his district.
In one incident, he said a motorist who was texting crossed the center line of a highway and struck another vehicle. The other death happened when a teenager on his way to school texted his girlfriend to say he was going to be late.
"It's very dangerous," he said. "This is so important that we need to make a law for it."
Under Tracy's proposal, a person who reads or sends a text while driving faces a $50 fine.
Republican Senator Mae Beavers of Mt. Juliet opposed the bill because of provisions in the current law.
"I've said time after time, I don't think we can legislate against stupidity," she said.
Tracy said three states have passed similar legislation and 32 others are considering it.
The bill has received a lot of support, including auto club AAA members and law enforcement officials.
"It takes two or three seconds for somebody to step out in front of you, for somebody to stop in front of you or for you to run off the road and hit something that's on the shoulder or if you're not on the interstate, on a side road, it's a danger to children and its just, in general, it's a dangerous situation," said Metro Police Lt. Melvin Brown
Drivers who spoke with News 2 said despite the dangers, they've texted before while behind the wheel.
"All the time, I'm always texting while driving," said Cody Heimann.
Dennis Lafreniere said, "[The ban] is a good idea but I'm still [going to] be sending text messages while I'm driving."