BRISTOL, Tenn. - It may soon be illegal to drive while talking on a hand-held cell phone in the Volunteer State if a bill passes in the Tennessee House of Representatives.
Both hands on the wheel and not the phone -- that's the goal of some lawmakers in Tennessee. "I think if you're driving on the road, I think your focus should be on the road, period. Then after you get home or when you get to your destination, you should be able to talk on your phone then," said Erik Cox, who is in favor of the bill.
The proposed bill makes it illegal to talk on a cell phone while driving, unless you use a hands-free device like a Bluetooth headset. "Sometimes I get behind people that are talking on their cell phones or texting, and you have to blow the horn to get their attention. People run red lights," adds Cox.
The bill says at first drivers will just receive a warning; repeat offenders could face up to $500 in fines. The bill says emergency calls are permitted, but you have to show evidence that it was a true emergency.
The bill also says drivers' cell phones could be seized and forfeited. "We have a lot of crashes associated with the actual dialing, because you're distracted. We also have a lot of crashes while you're talking because your mind is kind of elsewhere," says Mike Still with the Bristol, Tennessee Police Department.
Still says when they have a serious accident or a crash where someone dies, they check phone records. "We'll actually go back and subpoena the court records and see what was going on with the phone, whether there were messages going back and forth, or whether there was a call being placed or being received, or actually ongoing at the time the crash happened," he explained.
We spoke with some people off camera who disagree with the changes. They said they're worried that the fines are too high; but people like Erik Cox tell us they are happy lawmakers are doing something to keep the roads safe. "It shouldn't be any worse than drinking and driving .If you're not paying attention to the road, something is going to happen," he said.
The bill is still in committee.
We checked with the insurance Institute for Highway Safety, who says 13 states, including West Virginia, have laws saying it's illegal for all drivers to use a hand-held cell phone on the road.
Right now, it's already illegal to text and drive in Tennessee.