When you think of criminal offenses, crime shows or heinous acts you saw reported on the news might come to mind. You may even think of those involved as “criminals,” rather than people who are facing allegations.

However, with the new laws that took effect in Tennessee, criminal charges might entail much more than you think. In some cases, you could face a misdemeanor for using your phone.

New driving laws have strict penalties

You can no longer use a cellular device while you are in control of a motor vehicle. Since more than 56,000 distracted driving crashes have occurred in Shelby County alone since 2009, the new hands-free law aims to decrease incidents related to distracted driving throughout the state.

According to recent reports:

  • As of July 1, you may no longer hold your cell phone while driving. Violating this law could result in a misdemeanor charge.
  • Drivers may use one touch to start or end a call. Otherwise, you must put your phone on speaker or use a Bluetooth device.
  • The minimum fine for holding your cell phone while driving is $50. However, depending on your number of phone-related offenses, you may have to pay up to $200.

You might enjoy using your driving time to catch up on conversations or think the law is unfair. However, even if you have not experienced an accident due to another driver’s inattention, you have likely seen far too many people focusing on their phones instead of the road.

As law enforcement officers enforce the new hands-free law, be aware that these changes are for the safety of everyone involved. And before an officer tickets you for a violation, look into alternative ways to both communicate with, and return safely to, your loved ones.