Bridgette Butler: Welcome to this edition of the Vanderbilt Health and Wellness Wellcast. I am Bridgette Butler with Health Plus. Distracted driving is a major safety concern for Tennesseans. Recently, the new hands-free law was passed to address this issue. Here to speak with us today about distracted driving and what the new hands-free law means for drivers, is Captain Leshaun Oliver with Public Safety for the Vanderbilt University Police Department. Welcome, Leshaun.
Captain Leshaun Oliver: Hey, thank you for having me.
Bridgette Butler: What is distracted driving?
Captain Leshaun Oliver: It's anything that takes your attention off the road. When you're driving, you want to make sure your attention is on the task at hand, and so, whether that's texting or fumbling with something in the seat, if your eyes leave the road for even a moment of time, you are distracted and you are not paying attention to the task at hand.
Bridgette Butler: And how large of a concern is distracted driving for our community?
Captain Leshaun Oliver: Well, it is a large concern, and in particular, because of numbers that's reported, in the State of Tennessee, alone, for example, in 2018, there was over 25 crashes related to distracted driving, and then if you remember, when you are driving, one of the things we do in Tennessee over the electronic bulletin boards, is we document how many deaths are related. So, you are looking in the hundreds a year of people that die related directly to fatalities, and so, if we could reduce that in any way, we want to be proactive.
Bridgette Butler: And how does this new hands-free law address the issue of distracted driving?
Captain Leshaun Oliver: What it does is it tries to get people to self-comply, to regulate their phone uses, and actually do what they are intended to do when they get behind the wheel in the first place, and that is get to their destination - so, safely, undistracted, and focused on the road.
Bridgette Butler: What are some of the elements and aspects of the new law that we might want to be aware of?
Captain Leshaun Oliver: First and foremost, the new law pretty much takes what the law, when it came to texting while driving, to the next level in the sense that now we are not just focused on texting. We are focused on the phone altogether. So, it's hands-free. You can't even use your phone to touch it in any way when the vehicle is in motion, and so, the law pretty much sets up to where if you are observed by law enforcement personnel, they are going to enforce the law, so you can be fined, for first offense $50, second and third offense could be up to $100, and for example, if you are in a construction zone, it can go all the way up to $200, and that is just the state citation. But what other jurisdictions could do is also add local fines, and so it could become very costly after time, and in the state of Tennessee, we are on a point system, 12 points. So, for each infraction within a 12-month period, you can lose three points ... 12 points and your license becomes suspended.
Bridgette Butler: Under the new hands-free law, I understand that you are not able to hold your phone. Are you able to actually touch your phone if you are not actively holding it, if you have, say, a device that holds your phone for you?
Captain Leshaun Oliver: Yeah. If you have a mounted device that you put on your windshield or in your cup holder beside the car, you could utilize it. As long as like, for GPS purposes, is one example in which you could do that - you could touch to swipe and get direction or locations, answer a phone call if you are using, say, a Bluetooth. As long as your hands are both on the wheel, it allows you to maintain your focus and drive. Those are examples of where, yes, you could use it, but it needs to be within a mounted device. You can't be watching videos and be observed doing that, but you could use it for a GPS or take a call or end a call.
Bridgette Butler: Do you have any additional tips for preventing distracted driving?
Captain Leshaun Oliver: Yes, the big thing is to, if at all possible, turn your phone off, but if not, make sure you are aware of what you are in the car to get to point A to point B, or you can use technology, such as Bluetooth. Some cars are made to where you can take the call and have it on a speaker and what not, so there are so many other alternatives, but one of the things, like I said, to move us beyond just the texting and driving, but distracted driving altogether, is we want to remember that we are here to be safe and to get from point A to point B, and not to focus on anything other than what we are in the car to do, and that is to drive to our destination safely.
Bridgette Butler: That's a wonderful message, that the new law reminds us not only to try to keep our hands off our phones, but really to focus entirely on the task at hand, driving, to arrive safely.
Captain Leshaun Oliver: Absolutely.
Bridgette Butler: Okay, wonderful. Thank you so much for giving us such great information about the new law and how to prevent distracted driving.