Contact: Darlene Schlicher (615) 741-6336 or email: [email protected]
(NASHVILLE, TN), February 2, 2010 — Tennessee has made significant progress in road safety according to three key representatives of the AAA Auto Clubs of Tennessee, who testified in the Senate Transportation Committee today. Tim Wright, Don Lindsey and Kevin Bakewell of the AAA Auto Club South and AAA East Tennessee told Senate Transportation Committee Chairman Jim Tracy (R-Shelbyville) and other lawmakers on the committee that “Volunteer State leaders have done some remarkable things in the past ten years to make Tennessee a leader in enacting policies to keep motorists safe.”
Tracy passed legislation last year banning “texting while driving.” He drafted the legislation after a constituent lost her grandson due to texting while driving. The new law prohibits sending or reading text messages on public roads and highways while the driver is operating a motor vehicle in motion.
“Texting is just a quantum leap above (cell phones) in how much it distracts a driver,” said Lindsey, who is Director of Public Affairs at AAA. “It takes your eyes off the roads for at least four to five seconds at a time. All it takes is two seconds to have a crash.”
The AAA group cited a study to the legislative panel showing a similar law banning texting while driving in California cut out the dangerous practice by 70 percent. Research shows that although 82 percent of Americans surveyed say distracted driving is a serious problem, 14 percent admitted to reading or sending text messages while driving.
“I am very pleased that we continue to see that legislation banning texting while driving has been successful,” said Senator Tracy. “I think we will continue to see improvements as we educate drivers about the dangers that texting behind the wheel of a vehicle poses. As more studies are conducted we will continue to see that this new law is saving lives.”
The AAA officials also praised the law passed by the General Assembly in 2000 to implement graduated licenses for teen drivers. Lindsey said that from the law’s effective date in 2001 through 2008, the rate of teen driver deaths per 100,000 licensed teen drivers dropped 20 percent. Similarly, they cited the passage of a primary seat belt law in 2004 as having improved the number of Tennesseans who “buckle-up” by 9.5 percent to reach 82.5 percent. Finally, he said the 2004 law requiring child passenger booster seats have reduced the five- to nine-year-old child passenger fatality rate by 48 percent in deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled.
“It is good to hear that we are moving in the right direction in keeping our citizens safe,” added Tracy. “We still have much work to do, particularly in getting drunk drivers off our roads, but I am very pleased that the safety measures implemented are working to make our streets safer.”