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Proposed laws could affect Tennessee drivers later this year

Tennessee drivers were faced with some new rules of the road at the start of 2018 and lawmakers are already proposing new laws that could go into effect mid-year. PHOTO: MGN

NASHVILLE, Tenn.--Tennessee drivers were faced with some new rules of the road at the start of 2018, and lawmakers are already proposing new laws that could go into effect mid-year.

On Jan. 1, it became illegal for Tennesseans to operate a vehicle in a school zone while on a hand-held device and the school zone flashers were activated.

Now, one of the bill's sponsors wants to expand the law. Rep. John Holsclaw Jr. (R-Elizabethton) --who sponsored the school zone legislation, has joined Senator Reginald Tate (D-Memphis) in filing HB2211/SB2539.

The bill would make it a criminal offense to talk on a hand-held device while driving on ANY road, highway, or street. As with the current school zone law, the offense would be a Class C misdemeanor, punishable by a fine up to $50.

Here are some other proposed bills that could affect anyone getting behind the wheel if they are passed and enacted July 1st:

AGGRESSIVE DRIVING

SB2635/HB2501 seeks to introduce a new criminal offense of aggressive driving. Under the bill, a person commits aggressive driving if they intend to annoy, harass, molest, intimidate, injure or obstruct another person.

Those intentions and a combination of any two of the following actions would be considered aggressive driving:

Recklesss driving, not overtaking another vehicle while in a passing lane, impeding the flow of traffic, overtaking and passing in no passing zones, failing to yield to emergency vehicles, failing to yield to pedestrians, speeding, and stopping in prohibited places.

The penalty is a Class A misdemeanor, but if the intent is to injure another person, it becomes a Class E felony.

RENTAL CAR VIOLATIONS

SB2083/HB2566 seeks to prohibit rental companies or owners of a rental car from having to pay for a traffic violation or citation issued to the renter while using their vehicle.

In addition, the company or rental car owner can't assess any additional fees or charges against the driver because they were ticketed.

TEXTING & DRIVING

HB0854/SB0324 was originally introduced last year, but is back in committee this year. The bill would allow law enforcement to scan a driver's portable electronic device if there is probable cause to believe the driver was texting and driving and it led to a crash causing serious bodily injury or death.

The officer would be able to scan the device to see if it was in use at the time of, or immediately prior to the crash.

As defined in the bill, serious bodily injury could be extreme physical pain, protracted unconsciousness, disfigurement, or loss of a body part, organ, or mental faculty.

EXIT & ENTRANCE RAMPS

SB2283/HB2477 calls on the Department of Transportation to conduct a statewide study of the hazards posed by exit and entrance interstate ramps within urban counties and counties with high traffic volume.

The study would be conducted on or before March 1, 2019 and the department would have 90 days to submit their findings along with recommendations to transportation committees in the house and senate.

FIRST DUI

SB2395/HB1560 orders first-time DUI offenders to remove litter from public roadways or public property as part of their probation.

Offenders would have to work three eight hour shifts in daylight hours as part of their probation. However, this would only apply to offenders in counties where a litter and trash removal program has already been in effect.

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