Anyone with a cell phone has likely heard about the dangers of texting while driving, but many fail to appreciate how dangerous sending those short messages can be, according to Coffee County Sheriff Steve Graves.
However, law enforcement officials across the nation have seen the worst-case scenario become reality more times than they care to count.
Sgt. Kelly Smith looks on while Capt. Frank Watkins, both with the Coffee County Sheriff’s Dept., demonstrates the dangers of texting while driving. (Staff photo by Ian Skotte)
“It’s a serious problem,” said Graves.
The consequences of driving while texting often hit close to home.
“According to Tennessee Highway Patrol (THP), texting is thought to have been a contributing factor in a fatal accident on Interstate 24 last year that claimed the life of a 17-year-old Coffee County boy,” said Capt. Frank Watkins.
He added that law enforcement officials had checked the 17-year-old’s phone records.
“The boy sent and received a message before crossing the median into oncoming traffic,” said Watkins.
Graves said his department has handed out a few citations for texting while driving, but unfortunately usually find the offenders only after an accident.
Electronic devices have led to more than 40,000 crashes and 126 deaths on Tennessee’s roads in the last two years, according to the state’s Department of Safety and Homeland Security.
An experiment conducted by Car and Driver magazine indicates texting while driving is more dangerous than driving under the influence of alcohol.
In 2009, Tennessee became one of the first states in the nation to ban texting while driving. This law prohibits all drivers from transmitting or reading a written message while a vehicle is in motion. The penalty for violating this law is a fine up to $50 plus court costs not to exceed $10.
The Tennessee Highway Patrol (THP) has issued 751 texting while driving citations statewide since Jan. 1, 2010 and 13 have been issued in Coffee County and seven in Franklin County.
Smartphones more distracting?
Since the introduction of the first smartphone in 2007, cellphone-related traffic accidents in Tennessee and Coffee County are up 50 percent, according to data provided by the state of Tennessee’s Department of Transportation (TDOT)…
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