Top 5 Tennessee Traffic Laws You Need to Know in 2020 | The Law Offices of G Turner Howard III

Between state and federal traffic laws, there’s a lot to remember when on the road. In addition to driver and passenger safety, traffic laws are in place to help keep others on the road safe from harm. And in Tennessee, you can bet they’ll be enforced. Common punishments for breaking laws on this list range from citations to $1,000 fines to being arrested on the spot.

The best way to avoid breaking the law on the road? Stay informed. Some laws on this list were recently pushed through, meaning many drivers in Tennessee may not be aware of them yet. Some may be road rules you just don’t think about as much as others. Because there’s nothing more important to our team than helping you stay safe on the road, here are 5 common traffic laws that every Tennessee driver should know…

1. Don’t text and drive.

One of our most recent laws to take effect, it is now illegal to text while driving in Tennessee, according to Tennessee Code Annotated (TCA) 55-8-199. More specifically, it’s illegal to use any wireless telecommunications devices or stand-alone electronic devices while driving.

In addition to cell phones, this law includes the prohibition of using any other text-messaging device, personal digital assistant, stand-alone computers, or global positioning system receiver while on the road. Communication devices this law does not apply to include your in-vehicle navigation system, subscription-based emergency devices, medically-prescribed devices, and your radio.

A violation of this law by any driver is categorized as a Class C misdemeanor and may result in a fee of $50-200.

2. Buckle that belt!

Another top traffic safety law filed under TCA 55-9-603 states that it is illegal for any person to operate a moving motor vehicle without wearing their seatbelt. This applies to both the driver and any passenger inside the vehicle over the age of four (which you are legally responsible for in this instance).

The only exception? Unless otherwise specified, this law does not apply to motor vehicles that are used for public conveyance or that are not federally required by law to be equipped with safety belts.

If you get pulled over and are not wearing your seatbelt, punishment can range anywhere from a minor fine to an arrest, depending on the circumstances. In any case, breaking this law is categorized as a Class C misdemeanor.

3. Move over for emergency vehicles.

Under TCA 55-8-132, the Move Over law states that when approaching a stopped emergency vehicle on or near the road with visibly activated lights, you must “yield the right-of-way to the vehicle by moving into the closest available lane … whenever possible. When the roadway does not provide an additional lane, drivers are required to slow down and provide as much space as possible to protect emergency vehicle operators in action.”

The first time a driver breaks this law, it’s a Class B misdemeanor with a fine of at least $100, if not more. The second time, the fine may raise to at least $500. If a driver were to be pulled over for breaking this law a third time, it becomes a Class A misdemeanor with a fine of a minimum of $1,000.

4. Avoid driving drunk or with open containers of alcohol.

Two state laws and penalties wrapped into one, this is a no-brainer. In the state of Tennessee, it is illegal for any individual to drive under the influence of alcohol. It’s also illegal to drive with an open container of alcohol, even if your Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) level is under the legal limit of .08% at the time.

Punishments for breaking these laws, noted under TCA 55-10-401, 403, and 416, range from a simple citation to a more severe fine of up to $15,000 with jail time. This does not include any vehicle towing or storage expenses that may be charged or any enhanced penalties due to having a child under the age of 18 in the vehicle at the time.

5. Don’t speed, especially in construction or school zones.

We all know that, in any state, it’s illegal to speed. Assuming you’ve taken your driver’s test (and passed), this is nothing new. But in Tennessee, under TCA 55-8-152 and 153, it is defined as unlawful to reach a speed limit above 70 mph on any highway or interstate.

In construction and school zones, it’s especially important to keep your eye on your speed. School zones, for example, have certain laws that apply specifically to entryways and exit areas, meaning it’s crucial that drivers pay close attention to their surroundings when driving near a school.

Penalties for speeding in a school or construction zone vary greatly depending on the speed reached, any past violations, and whether or not anyone was injured. Typically, these misdemeanors can result in fees between $250-500.

The information in this article was sourced from Tennessee’s Department of Safety & Homeland Security. To view a free online version of the complete Tennessee Code, click here.

From all of us at G3 Help Me Law, we hope this article has provided useful information on staying safe on the road. Have a legal question about an auto accident? Give us a call at (865) 558-8030 or schedule your free, confidential case evaluation today.


After spending his secondary years of study at The McCallie School in Chattanooga, G Turner Howard III earned his BA at Tulane University. A member of the Tennessee Trial Lawyers Association, he received his law degree from the University of Tennessee College of Law. Before becoming an attorney, he earned a Master’s and Doctor of Divinity at Andrews Theological Seminary and Columbia Theological Seminary. He also served as a 1st Lieutenant in the US Army in Vietnam. With more than 20 years of experience, his firm has helped clients receive millions of dollars for personal injury, and in many cases, much faster than they ever expected.
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