Are you a Knoxville resident or visitor planning to get behind the wheel? Driving in Knoxville requires you to be familiar with Tennessee traffic laws. Whether you’re a drunk driver or a sober one, it’s essential to be aware of the laws that could help keep you safe on the roads. Here are 10 Tennessee traffic laws you need to know about to ensure you drive responsibly in Knoxville.
1. Move Over Law
When you encounter any emergency vehicle with its functional lights, you must yield them the right of way. This can be done by moving into some adjacent lane. If in case there is no available lane, then your next option should be pulling your car to the side of the road and giving the emergency vehicle operator as much space as possible.
You must wait until the vehicle has passed and proceed slowly in case other emergency vehicles are in line. When an emergency vehicle goes through an intersection, cross-traffic is obliged to yield the right-of-way.
2. Seat Belt Law
The seat belt is a wonderful feature of motor vehicles, usage of which is mandatory in Knoxville, Tennessee. The driver and front seat passengers must be adequately belted while operating a motor vehicle. Adults in the back seat do not necessarily have to, but it is also recommended for them to wear seat belts. Drivers will be ticketed if they are caught not wearing seat belts or with underage passengers who are not properly restrained.
3. DUI Law and Penalties
A Knoxville drunk driver can face fines, jail time, license suspension, and other penalties. In Tennessee, a drunk driver can be charged with DUI if their blood alcohol content (BAC) is 0.08% or more. The penalties faced by first-time DUI offenders can include the following:
- Jail time of up to 11 months and 29 days
- A fine of up to $1,500
- License suspension for up to a year
- Mandatory alcohol and drug education classes
- Other restrictions
Repeated offenses can result in even more severe penalties.
4. Hands-Free Law
In 2019, Tennessee saw a massive spike in distracted driving-related crashes, surpassing the national average by a factor of five. This prompted the introduction of the “Hands-Free” law on July 1, 2019, which bans motorists from using their cell phones or any other electronic communication device while driving on public roads.
This incorporates talking on a cell phone, messaging, or using some other hand-held electronic gadgets. Drivers are allowed to use hands-free features like Bluetooth headsets and voice-activated tools. However, drivers are not allowed to physically enter data into a device while driving, such as typing a location into a GPS system. Exceptions include using a GPS device mounted to the dashboard, a two-way radio, or a device to report an emergency.
5. Open Container Law
The driver of any motor vehicle in Knoxville should not be in possession of an open container of an alcoholic beverage. The penalty for violating this law is a Class C misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of up to $100. This law just applies to the driver and not to any passengers in the vehicle.
The open container must be stored in an area not normally occupied by the driver, such as the trunk or a space occupied by the passenger. Additionally, the open container must be securely sealed and labeled with the manufacturer’s name and the alcoholic content of the beverage.
6. Child Restraint Devices Law
Tennessee drivers must use a safety belt or child restraint device in a motor vehicle. This law applies to all persons under the age of 18 and all drivers regardless of age. The law requires that all children be secured in an appropriate child restraint device or safety belt that meets the United States Department of Transportation standards.
Children under the age of four must be restrained in a forward-facing child restraint device placed in the rear seat. Children between the ages of four and eight must be secured in a forward-facing booster seat, and those between the ages of eight and fifteen must be secured in either a forward-facing child restraint device or a safety belt.
7. Motorcycle Helmet Law
Tennessee does not allow motorcycle operators and passengers to move about without wearing a proper motorcycle helmet. It is also important that the helmet meets all the safety requirements of the Department of Transportation (DOT). This law applies to all motorcycles and mopeds, regardless of age or size.
8. Handgun Carry Permit Law
In the state of Tennessee, it is legal to carry a handgun in public places as long as you have a valid Tennessee Handgun Carry Permit (HCP). This permit can be obtained from the Knoxville Police Department. The application process includes a background check by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.
To obtain an HCP, you must meet specific eligibility requirements and complete an approved handgun safety course. The minimum age to obtain an HCP is 21. You must be a legal resident of the state of Tennessee for at least six months, and you must not be prohibited from possessing firearms under federal or state law. You must also pass a criminal background check and complete a handgun safety course.
However, carrying a handgun without a valid HCP is illegal, and firearms may not be carried in certain places, such as schools, government buildings, and bars. Violation of the handgun carry law can result in fines, jail time, or both.
9. Speeding in Construction Zones Law
Knoxville drivers must abide by the posted speed limits, especially when workers are present on a construction site. Any violations will result in a minimum fine of $250.
10. Right Turn on Red Law
In the city of Knoxville, Tennessee, there is no law against making a right turn at a red light unless a “No Right Turn on Red” sign is posted. However, Tennessee state law requires drivers to come to a complete stop before turning on a red light. Additionally, drivers should always use caution and be prepared to yield to any pedestrians or vehicles that have the right of way.
Driving in Knoxville can be a great experience whether you’re commuting to work or simply running errands around town. However, you need to be aware of a few crucial Tennessee traffic laws. These laws ensure everyone’s safety while on the road and help keep traffic moving smoothly. Knowing the laws can help you avoid traffic violations, costly fines, and even points on your license. Understanding and following the laws can help keep yourself, your passengers, and other drivers safe.