The Hendersonville Standard Blog
The Hendersonville Standard Blog
Top Tenn. Traffic Safety Laws
“Hey -- Let’s be careful out there.” Epic quote from the character Sergeant Phil Esterhaus (played by actor Michael Conrad) at the beginning of the TV show Hill Street Blues
In 2011, the Tennessee Department of Safety & Homeland Security posted its “Top 10” list of traffic safety laws for Tennessee visitors. The list has a reference to each law as it appears in the Tennessee Code Annotated, which contains all currently-in-force state laws.
Some traffic laws in Tennessee may differ from those in other states. While written for visitors, the ‘Top Tenn.’ list is a good reminder for Tennessee residents.
1. Texting While Driving Law (TCA 55-8-199)
Texting while driving a vehicle in Tennessee is illegal.
Jim’s Note: This law only applies to a person driving a vehicle that is in motion when the text message is being transmitted or read by the driver. So, texting while stopped at a red-light is OK.
2. Move Over Law (TCA 55-8-132)
When approaching a stopped emergency vehicle with visual emergency lights activated, drivers are required to yield the right-of-way to the vehicle by moving into the closest available lane from the emergency vehicle, whenever possible. When the roadway does not provide an additional lane, drivers are required to slow down and provide as much space as possible to protect emergency vehicle operators in action.
3. Seat Belt Law (TCA 55-9-603)
Tennessee is a primary Safety Belt state. Drivers are required to wear safety belts at all times when operating a motor vehicle in Tennessee. Drivers are also responsible for ensuring that all passengers are belted in.
4. Speeding in Construction Zones Law (TCA 55-8-153)
Drivers are required to obey speed limits at all times, especially when workers are in a construction zone. Violators are subject to a minimum $250.00 fine.
5. Handgun Carry Permit Law (TCA 39-17-1351)
Tennessee allows out-of-state residents who possess a legally issued Handgun Carry Permit to bear a handgun; Tennessee laws regulating the use and carry of a handgun shall take precedence. To view a listing of states with which Tennessee has reciprocity agreements, use the following link: www.tn.gov/safety/handgun/reciprocity.shtml
6. Tennessee's DUI Law and Penalties (TCA 55-10-401 and 55-10-403)
Individuals are presumed to be under the influence of alcohol with a Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) of .08%. First time offenders are subject to a $350.00 minimum fine and 48 hours in jail. Vehicle towing and storage will also be charged to offenders. Enhanced penalties and sanctions will result if BAC is greater than the legal limit or if children are present at the time of arrest.
7. Maximum Length of Recreational Vehicle Combination Law (TCA 55-7-201)
The maximum length of this type of combination vehicle is sixty-five feet (65'). Any towed vehicle shall also be securely attached to the pulling unit and equipped with functional brake and signal lights.
8. Child Restraint Devices Law (TCA 55-9-602)
All child passengers through the age of 8 must be secured in a Child Restraint Device. Infants are required in a rear facing child restraint device in the rear seat, if available, until the age of 1 or weighing 20 pounds or less. Children ages 1 through 3 weighing greater than 20 pounds must be in a child restraint device in a forward facing position in the rear seat, if available. Children ages 4 through 8 and less than 4 feet, 9 inches in height must be in a booster seat in the rear seat, if available. Children above the age of 9 must be secured by a safety belt restraint system.
9. Motorcycle Helmet Law (TCA 55-9-302)
All motorcycle operators and passengers are required to wear a helmet. Helmets must meet federal motor vehicle safety standards and be certified by the Department of Transportation (DOT).
10. Open Container Law (TCA 55-10-416) Drivers shall not consume or possess an open container of an alcoholic beverage or beer while operating a motor vehicle in Tennessee.
Jim’s Note: Many counties and cities also have local ordinances that prohibit passengers from consuming or possessing alcoholic beverages while a vehicle is in operation. And of course, the “red-light rule” that allows texting when the vehicle is stopped does not allow open-container possession or consumption while stopped at a red light.
James B. (Jim) Hawkins is a general practice and public interest law attorney based in Gallatin. This column represents legal information, and is not intended to take the place of legal advice. All cases are different and need individual attention. Consult with a private attorney of your choice to review the facts and law specific to your case. Topics for future columns may be suggested at (615) 452-9200.