Tennessee tops list nationwide for distracted driving deaths

Tennessee tops list nationwide for distracted driving deaths

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - Every year, people are killed due to distracted driving.

The state of Tennessee is at the top of the list when it comes to those deadly crashes.

Lawmakers are pushing for stricter laws on the road.

A bill proposed in the Tennessee legislature would make it illegal to talk on a handheld mobile phone while driving on any of Tennessee's roads.

"I see it every day,” said Shannon Pitner with Pitner Driving School.

Pitner has been teaching new drivers the rules of the road for 40 years and says he's seen it all.

"Every day we're out in the street,” Pitner said. “Doesn't matter the age: teenagers, older people - they have phones in the hand and the phone is a constant problem now."

A new study by Value Research says it’s worse in Tennessee than any other state.

From 2015 to 2017, research shows the Volunteer State had the highest rate of distracted driving fatalities at 1.49 fatalities per 10 billion vehicle miles, nearly five times the national average.

"Just that one second can change lives,” Pitner said.

Pitner teaches his students about three types of distracted driving: visual, manual and cognitive. He says phones fall under all three categories.

"It used to be when someone was drifting out of their lane, you'd think OK maybe they've been drinking or something, better watch them, but now the first thing you think is: they're distracted, they're on that phone,” Pitner said.

Current Tennessee law has a ban on handheld devices in school zones while lights are flashing, a cellphone ban for novice drivers and a texting ban for all drivers.

Pitner said he'd like to see stricter distracted driving laws enforced.

"All laws are good, but like anything, some will obey and some won’t,” Pitner said.

The bill is sponsored by Representative Patsy Hazelwood and is currently assigned to the safety and funding subcommittee.

If passed, the bill will take effect on Jan. 1, 2020.

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