NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV)
A new study shows Tennessee ranked No. 1 across the nation in distracted driving crashes.
The top distracted driving counties aren’t necessarily the ones with the most people.
Tennessee has seen a dramatic uptick in the number of phone-related crashes in the past decade.
Officials hope this changes with the new hands-free law that goes into effect on July 1.
Callie McGill of Value Penguin pulled data from the Tennessee Department of Safety from 2008-2017. Her team found five of the top 10 distracted-driving counties surround Nashville and Davidson County.
“We see this across some other states too, so you’re not alone in this,” McGill said. “Counties that surround the largest city see increases.”
She said in other states with high crash rates, the hands-free law has curbed accident numbers significantly.
Williamson County ranks third in Tennessee with 6.19 distracted driving crashes per year, a 129% increase since 2008. Rutherford County is No. 5 with 5.56 crashes per year. Wilson and Davidson County both follow closely behind. Of those counties, Davidson County has the largest population.
The numbers are based on the average number of fatalities per 10 billion vehicle miles.
McGill said Nashville may not see as many distracted-driving crashes because of the growing number of rideshare companies, leading to fewer people behind the wheel of their own car.
McGill said it is also difficult for officers to determine what exactly someone is doing on their phone. The new law eliminates that gray area.
“When a state goes hands-free and you can’t touch your phone whatsoever, we surmise that it makes it easier to enforce that law because anyone touching their phone is an offender,” McGill said.
Beginning July 1, if police see you holding your phone while driving, you will pay a $50 fine. If phone use results in a wreck, it will be a $100 fine. If you are holding your phone in a work or school zone when warning flashers are on, it will be a $200 fine.