KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — With only a few days left before the new hands-free cell phone law goes into effect, the University of Tennessee is pushing for drivers to take it seriously.
UT's Center for Transportation Research says its research backs the need for a law like this to be in place.
A study they conducted in 2012 found 88% of Tennessee drivers believe texting and driving is a huge threat to their safety.
"They felt less safe driving than they did five years ago," said Tammy Enix, research associate with UT's Center for Transportation Research.
Even years later, that sentiment holds true.
It's in large part because of cell phone use while driving.
"They indicated that driving while texting was a huge threat to their safety," said Enix.
She said when you take your eyes off the road to glance down at your cell, you're diverted away from the road for an average of five seconds.
While driving at 55 mph, it only takes five seconds to travel the length of a football field.
"So imagine driving blind across a football field and all the obstacles you might encounter if you translate that to a highway," said Enix.
In Knox County between 2008 and 2018, there were 9,958 car accidents caused by distracted driving.
That's according to the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security.
It's all this data that Enix said backs the need for the hands-free law statewide.
"Hopefully we will see a decline in fatalities due to texting while driving," she said.
Plus, breaking this law can get you a ticket and possibly points on your driver's license.
"If you get caught once, your insurance company gets wind of it, there could be some serious consequences for you personally," said Enix.
The best way not to become a statistic? Follow the new law and be an example to other drivers, including new teen drivers in your family.
"When [an adult gets] a ticket or when they are getting called out by their children, then it might be a time for a family conversation," said Enix.
She said UT may be called on to do more research when the hands-free law is in full swing.
That law goes into effect on Monday, July 1, 2019. You can't hold your phone to talk or text while you drive, but voice commands are allowed.