Cellphone use plays a role in many distracted driving crashes and fatalities across the United States. However, research shows Tennessee tops the nation when it comes to cellphone-related distracted driving fatalities. Tennessee’s phone-related distracted driving death rate is five times the national average, highlighting a growing problem the state must address.

Per The Tennessean, Tennessee and the nation’s four other leading states for cellphone-related distracted driving deaths see more than 30% of all such fatalities nationwide.

Tennessee statistics

Between 2015 and 2015, Tennessee saw more than 1,400 road deaths result from motorists using handheld cellphones behind the wheel. At the national level, the rate of cellphone-related distracted driving deaths is 1.49 fatalities for every 10 billion miles driven. Yet, Tennessee’s cellphone-related distracted driving death rate is exponentially higher.

Possible explanations

Research shows that the states with the strictest cellphone use and distracted driving laws typically have the lowest numbers of deaths due to these circumstances. The 13 states with particularly strict distracted driving laws saw about 25% fewer distracted driving deaths than those with lax laws.

Until mid-2019, Tennessee laws banned motorists from using their cellphones only when traveling through marked school zones. On July 1, 2019, the state enacted a hands-free law to help lower the number of road deaths caused by cellphone use.

The 2019 law change is likely to impact the number of motorists and passengers dying due to in-vehicle cellphone use. However, how much of an impact the law change may have year over year is not yet clear.