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Baxter Police Chief Says New Distracted Driver Law Will Be Priority

/ The Upper Cumberland's News Leader
Baxter Police Chief Says New Distracted Driver Law Will Be Priority

Baxter Police Chief Danny Holmes said a new distracted driving law that goes into effect Monday will be a priority for enforcement.

The Eddie Conrad Act increases the number of points that can be charged to a person’s driving record if they are pulled over for being distracted by a cell phone. Holmes said people do not understand the dangers of cell phone use while driving.

“You’re going down the interstate at 70 miles per hour, and the phone rings and you pick it up,” Holmes said. “You’re more worried about who’s on the phone than the automobile in front of you. We’ve worked a lot of accidents especially out here on 56 and Highway 70.”

The law defines distracted by your cellphone as texting, recording, taking pictures, looking at media content or not utilizing a hands-free device while using the phone. Holmes said the most common accidents of drivers distracted by their phones occur at heavily congested areas like four-way stops.

“We have a lot of traffic here especially in a school zone,” Holmes said. “Someone will rear end somebody, and when we get out there they’ll admit to us, you know I was on my phone, I wasn’t paying attention.”

Holmes said he was lucky enough to have not worked a fatality accident caused by a driver distracted by their cell phone. He said if you have to use your phone while driving and you do not have a hands-free device remove yourself from a dangerous situation.

“If the phone is ringing, pull over into a parking lot,” Holmes said. “Then you can call that person back, and you are going to be a lot safer and save lives.”

The new bill is named for Eddie Conrad who was killed by a distracted driver after his car was struck from behind and pushed out into oncoming traffic. His wife and grandchildren were also in the vehicle and survived the crash.

“The police department is going to be out in force,” Holmes said. “We’re going to enforce that law. So will the Tennessee Highway Patrol. I’ve seen the Cookeville Police have a task force on South Jefferson Avenue stopping people for being on their phones. You may not see the danger in it, but we do. We’re wanting to save your life along with someone else.”

Increased points on your driving record can also be coupled with higher insurance rates.

The bill goes into effect January 1.


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