Drunk driving is dangerous and often deadly, but there is another danger that experts say puts some of the state's youngest drivers at risk behind the wheel.
Drivers education courses teach many of the rules of the road, but if a new state law passes, students will also learn that texting while driving is not allowed. The hope is that a change in Tennessee law will result in lives saved.
Mt. Juliet police staged a mock crash Friday in front of thousands of high school students, because each year thousands of crashes are caused by texting while driving.
"It's a dangerous reality. It's frightening that teenagers haven't grasped the concept of, you know, that phone is dangerous while they're driving," said Sgt. Tyler Chandler.
Soon, there could be a new law to help. State Rep. Ron Lollar, R-Bartlett, is sponsoring a bill that would require all driver education courses to include instruction on the dangers and crime of texting behind the wheel.
"I think this type of legislation is imperative for changing some of the safety aspect of the highways," said Andrew Williams, executive director of the Tennessee Regional Safety Council.
Williams, a retired Metro police officer, has been named the International Defensive Driver Course safety instructor of the year for the last two years.
He said he supports the law change, but he said even it doesn't go far enough.
Williams would also like to see stricter penalties for texting behind the wheel. Right now in Tennessee, it is punishable with a $50 fine plus $10 in court costs.
"There are no points placed. It's a non-moving violation," Williams said.
That part of the law needs to change, he said, for safety's sake.
"The incentive to get people not to text while they're driving, not to talk on their cell phone while they're driving is very minimal," Williams said.
There is another bill proposed this legislative session that would stiffen the punishments for not wearing a seatbelt.
As for the texting while driving education reform bill, that goes before the House Education Subcommittee on Tuesday.
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