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Knoxville Sheriff’s Office Participates in Texting While Driving Campaign

On September 19th, the Knox County Sheriff’s Office took part in the “It Can Wait” campaign during the national “Drive 4 Pledges Day.” The Sheriff’s Office set up and tended a “Drive 4 Pledges Day” booth on the Knoxville Market Square mall.

“Drive 4 Pledges Day” is a national campaign bringing awareness to the dangers of car accidents caused by texting while driving.

The event, sponsored by AT&T wireless and supported by the U.S. Department of Transportation, encourages drivers to take a pledge to never text and drive. The pledge not to text and drive can be made at The Knox County sheriff even tweeted a picture of himself signing the pledge.

The Sheriff’s participation in the event helped raise awareness of the dangers of texting while driving and provided for a positive “Drive 4 Pledges Day” campaign. However, the underlying realities of texting while driving are a little more somber. Organizers of the “It Can Wait” campaign state that over 100,000 crashes per year are due to texting while driving, and many of these accidents cause fatalities or serious injury.

U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx:

“Texting while driving claims too many lives, and raising awareness of this completely preventable tragedy is key to saving them.”

Tennessee is not immune to the fatalities and injuries caused by texting while driving. In order to combat the tragedies of texting while driving, Tennessee outlawed texting while driving in 2009. This non-moving traffic offense carries a fine of $50 with no reduction in driver’s license points. Tenn. Code Ann. ยง 55-8-199 (2009). Tennessee was the tenth state to make texting while driving illegal right behind Alaska, California, Utah, Minnesota, Arkansas, Louisiana, Virginia, New York and Connecticut. As of this writing, 41 states and the District of Columbia now ban texting while driving.

While the law may have had some success, Tennessee is still plagued with distracted driving accidents. A 2013 news report indicated that, for the 15 Middle Tennessee law enforcement agencies, only 389 texting while driving violations have been issued since 2009. However, a recent National Safety Council report found that 10.6 percent of all fatal accidents in Tennessee involved a cell phone. While the report did not distinguish between phone calls and texting, this is still ten times the national average, being only 1.2 percent.

In civil distracted driver cases, a driver that causes an accident while texting will be found negligent as a matter of law. Tennessee applies the doctrine of negligence per se or negligence as a matter of law. This means that, when a driver violates a statute that was written to protect the public, and that violation causes an accident, the alleged offending driver is negligent as a matter of law. The alleged victim does not need to prove the driver’s negligence. The alleged offending driver is presumed negligent. The driver can rebut this presumption, but he or she must bring evidence to show that they weren’t negligent.

While there is no known case on point in Tennessee, other states have even found remote texters liable for damages caused by a distracted driver. An Appellate Division of the New Jersey Superior Court opinion found a New Jersey woman liable for the damages involving an accident because she sent a text that distracted a driver even though she wasn’t near the accident.

We applaud the Knox County Sheriff’s participation in the “Drive 4 Pledges Day” campaign. We also recommend that drivers never text while driving. Accident victims and those they love experience long term emotional strain. Learning to cope with a debilitating injuries or the loss of someone you love can be very painful. The emotional pain can be compounded when caused by a distracted driver by knowing that the accident could easily have been prevented. As such, we discourage driving distracted.

If you have been involved in an accident and suspect that it may have involved texting while driving or other distracted driving, contact Hartsoe Law Firm, P.C. at (865) 524-5657.

Additional Resources:
DOT Drive 4 Pledges Day

National Safety Council’s Fact Sheets

More Blog Entries:
Knoxville Traffic Safety Watch: Men More Likely to Speed? Aug. 7, 2013, Knoxville Injury Lawyer Blog

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