KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — The Tennessee Highway Patrol released its latest safety statistics after the state implemented a new hands-free law on July 1 to prevent distracted driving deaths.

The Tennessee Highway Patrol said there have been 752 deaths on Tennessee roads so far in 2019. 407 of those were urban fatalities and 345 were rural fatalities. These numbers also include 97 pedestrian deaths.

In 2018 there were 1,041 fatalities for the entire year and more than 24,600 crashes involved a distracted driver. Compared to the 752 current deaths in 2019, THP had recorded 680 deaths between January to August 2018.

THP also highlighted a string of deadly crashes over the weekend that killed nine people, saying more than half of those who died weren't wearing seat belts. State troopers are sending out the reminder for people to buckle up, slow down and eliminate any distractions when behind the wheel.

Tennessee has one of the highest rates of distracted driving deaths, if not the highest in the nation. It is nearly five times the national average and was listed as the worst in the U.S. for distracted driving deaths in a study conducted by ValuePenguin which examined data from the National Highway Traffic Administration. 

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The new hands-free law makes it illegal to hold a mobile device with any part of the body and write, send or read any text-based communication. The law also makes it illegal to watch, record or broadcast a video while driving.

The law is still in full effect, so make sure to put that phone down and keep your eyes on the road.

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