Knoxville/ Transportation & Infrastructure
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Published on April 02, 2024
Tennessee's 'Operation Hands Free' Bus Tour Takes Aim at Distracted Driving to Boost Road SafetySource: Facebook/Knoxville Police Department - TN

In an unyielding effort to ensure the roads are not a web wrought with distracted drivers, Tennessee officials have set their sights on enforcing the hands-off-the-phone rule. According to a WVLT article, the Tennessee Highway Safety Office (THSO) initiated 'Operation Hands Free', deploying a bus tour across the state that doubles as a lookout post for officers eyeing those who can't seem to keep their hands on the wheel and their eyes on the road. Armando Fontes of the THSO painted a grim portrait of the consequences of distracted driving, stating, "We have so many roadway fatalities that involve people in vehicles and some pedestrians that are a result people that are simply doing everything else except driving a motor vehicle on the roadway."

April 1 marked the start of National Distracted Driving Awareness Month, and Tennessee's response was swift, launching their bus operation to underscore the illegality of gripping a gadget while driving, as per state law. WBIR elaborated that during this surveillance bus tour, if lawbreakers are spotted, a hasty alert is sent to nearby patrol vehicles to reel them in, and it's not just texting that's got Tennessee's safety enforcers on edge, even reaching for a cell phone can pull drivers away from the security of their seat belts and a properly seated driving position which could lead to grave consequences.

Distracted driving, an umbrella term for any activity siphoning attention away from the act of driving, is a growing concern for the nation, the enforcement of which has been underscored in Tennessee. As per Local 3 News, activities such as eating, adjusting the stereo, or even engaging with passengers can detract from one's focus on driving safely. In conversations gathered by the Local 3 News Team, officers highlighted that vigilance is the key as traffic violations could sprout from these seemingly benign distractions, and the aim is clear—to maintain an unwavering lens on public safety on the roads.

The repercussions for failing to heed the hands-free law in Tennessee range from fines to the stripping of license points—a misdemeanor seemingly light on paper but monumental in its intent to save lives on asphalt thoroughfares. Tennesseans have been put on notice, their travels now shadowed by the intent gazes of law enforcement from the subtle confines of a city bus turned sentinel, as Captain Stacey Heatherly emphasized to WBIR, "We're watching, we're going to hold you accountable if you're distracted, if you're impaired, if you're not wearing your seatbelt, speeding, any type of violations such as that." With this level of heightened scrutiny, 'Operation Hands Free' has effectively begun its journey to thwart the multitasking motorist madness.