MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Tennesseans will see a host of new laws on the books starting Monday, and they touch on everything from crime to cell phone usage to even operating electronic scooters while under the influence.
The law certainly getting the most attention is the “hands-free cell phone” law aimed at getting distracted drivers to put down their cell phones.
“Since the year 2009, Shelby County leads the way in distracted driving reported crashes,” Memphis Police Lt. Col. Keith Watson said.
Watson said in that time period, there have been more than 56,000 crashes attributed to distracted driving in the county. That’s why he’s glad the state’s hands-free law starts July 1.
The law makes it a class C misdemeanor to hold a phone in one’s hand or with any part of the body while driving in Tennessee. Fines start at $50 and go up from there.
“Now, that fine increases if there is a crash that occurs in a work zone or a school zone,” Watson said. “And if this person causes a crash, and it’s their second or third offense, these fines can go up to $200.”
Drivers are allowed to touch the phone once to start a call or end a call, but just one touch. Drivers must use a Bluetooth or put their phone on speaker.
Watson said come Monday, officers will be strictly enforcing the new law.
Some drivers said the law is long overdue.
“There have definitely been times in traffic where someone’s doing something a little less than smart,” Allison Galey of Knoxville, Tennessee, said. “You look over, and they’re on their cell phones. I’m hoping that will help some of my traffic frustrations.”
Another law included in the more than 140 new laws set to take effect Monday is a law that bars ministers ordained online from performing marriages.
Death penalty cases will now be automatically sent to the state supreme court for review.
The Tennessee Sports Gaming Act will allow online sports gambling, but a regulatory board has yet to be formed.
There will be increased penalties for “drive-by” shootings when the victim is a minor.
For people who like riding the new public electric scooters, starting July 1, someone who has been drinking and gets behind the handle bars will face DUI charges if involved in a crash.
Memphian Eric Williams thinks the new law makes sense.
“If you get too drunk, and you ride one, it’s your responsibility to pay for anything you run into,” Williams said. “I think you’re liable.”
Click here for other new laws that will take effect July 1.