House votes to enhance penalty for texting while driving

The state House narrowly approved a bill Monday night to increase the penalty for texting and driving in Tennessee. The Senate is scheduled to consider the bill Wednesday.

From the Commercial Appeal:

Under current Tennessee law, a driver using a hand-held mobile phone or personal digital assistant to transmit or read a written message while his or her vehicle is in motion is considered a “non-moving” violation subject to a fine of up to $50 and court costs of up to $10. Using a hands-free function to text is not considered a violation of the law.

House Bill 1511, by Rep. Ron Lollar, R-Bartlett, would make texting while driving a moving violation with the same level of fine but with the addition of four points against a driver’s record and mandatory attendance and completion of a driver’s education course. The points are the same those assessed for careless or negligent driving. The state suspends the driver’s license of drivers who amass 12 points a year.

Points may also result in an increase in the driver’s insurance premium.

The bill won approval on a 51-36 vote — only one vote more than the 50 required for passage in the 99-member House.