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Tennessee Cracks Down on Distracted Driving

State Troopers Prowl Interstates for Texting Drivers

Tennessee law enforcement is cracking down on distracted drivers in the state according to the Times Free Press.

The Tennessee Highway Safety Office and the Tennessee Highway Patrol are teaming up with local police departments on a statewide bus tour meant to spotlight inattentive drivers and the dangers they pose.

A bus full of Tennessee State Troopers set out on Chattanooga interstates on Oct. 11, 2017, spotting distracted drivers so other troopers could pull them over as they passed.

“Distracted driving is becoming a very serious problem throughout, not only in the state of Tennessee, but throughout the United States,” said Steve Dillard, law enforcement liaison for the Department of Safety and Homeland Security.

“Our whole objective today is to try to bring awareness to drivers that when you’re operating a vehicle, you need to pay attention to your surroundings and what’s going on out here.”

The bus traveled on Interstate 24 and the troopers inside peered into passing cars, radioing ahead when spotting a distracted driver. The troopers pulled over 72 drivers in 72 miles, all for distracted driving.

“When we are driving these big marked vehicles, the public doesn’t pay any attention to it, even though it says ‘state trooper’ all over it,” said THP Lt. John Harmon, public information officer for the Chattanooga district.

The bus officers recorded as many details on each distracted driver as possible, down to the color of the phone they were using.

When we’re enforcing this, we want to be right,” Harmon said. “We’ll call out, ‘Red phone, right hand.’ How would the trooper ahead know it’s a red phone unless we told him? If they pull them over and there’s no red phone, then they know they got the wrong car.”

The U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s data shows nine people die per day from crashes involving distracted drivers, with more than 1,000 injured. 3,477 Americans died in 2015 from crashes blamed on distracted driving.

As of June 2017 46 states have banned texting while driving, and 14 states have banned entirely hand-held cellphone use while driving. Tennessee, Alabama and Georgia have all banned texting while driving, but only ban all cellphone use for drivers younger than 18.

“We live in a technological society. Everybody wants it right now. We have to be better about controlling those devices while in the car, while behind the wheel,” Harmon said. “We need self-compliance. We all have to do better.”

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