Monday marked day one of Tennessee’s new hands-free driving law.
It aims to crack down on distracted driving, but it’s also raised a lot of questions about what people can and can’t do under the new law.
“Texting and driving [cases] are hard to prove,” said Captain Cary Gensemer with the Murfreesboro Police Department.
But with the Hands-Free law, that changes.
“The new law — being able to see that they’re actually holding a phone in their hand while driving — now that that’s prohibited, it’ll be much easier for us to take enforcement action,” Cpt. Gensemer said.
But there is still confusion of what drivers can have in their hands while driving, like food, drinks and cigarettes.
“It is not against the law to eat or to smoke,” Cpt. Gensemer explained.
Cpt. Gensemer said, what qualifies a traffic stop depends on if the action takes your attention away from driving.
Simple actions can quickly pose a danger.
“If you’re putting makeup on, you’re having to use a mirror so you’re not focusing on the roadway,” Cpt. Gensemer said.
He says, when you add other elements to the mix, danger can escalate.
“Like excessive swerving or speeding or a near-miss accident because you’re eating or applying makeup,” he said. “You’re going to have to see one, add the other elements to say ‘okay, that’s going to be an offense.'”
In Murfreesboro, that can lead to a $150 careless driving citation. If there’s a disregard for others safety or property, you can be cited $165 for reckless driving.
Gensemer said beyond electronic devices, violations will be determined on a case-by-case basis.
He shared a simple rule of thumb of what will likely land you a hefty fine:
“Whatever behavior you’re doing behind the wheel other than driving is causing an obvious concern to officers,” he said.
Statewide hands-free fines:
- $50 for a first offense
- $100 for a third offense or higher
- $200 for a violation in a work zone, marked school zone or if the violation causes a crash