Traffic Safety Laws in Tennessee
Child Car Seat Laws
- Children younger than 1 year old or weighing 20 lbs. or less must be properly secured in an approved rear-facing child passenger restraint system.
- Children between 1 to 3 years old weighing more than 20 lbs. must be properly secured in an approved forward-facing or rear facing child passenger restraint system.
- Children 4 to 8 years old and less than 4 ft 9 in tall must be properly secured in an approved belt-positioning booster seat system.
Children exceeding these limits must follow the seat belt rules listed below.
If you're in the market for one, you can shop online for a car seat at any time. When ordering, be sure the seat matches your child's height, weight and age.
NOTE: The above are the minimum state requirements. Visit the NHSTA website for size recommendations that can be safer for your child.
Any adult, and any child exceeding the child safety seat limits, must be properly secured by a seat belt when riding in the front seat of a vehicle. Both shoulder and lap belts must be used if the vehicle is equipped with them.
Drivers are responsible for seeing that the safety belt and child safety seat rules are followed in their vehicle. Drivers can be nailed with a ticket, fine, and points on their license for failing to ensure compliance within their vehicle.
However, licensed passengers 16 years old or older are responsible for their own conduct, and may receive a ticket for disobeying the rule.
Law enforcement officials may stop a vehicle solely for a safety belt or child restraint seat infraction.
The state provides a frequently asked questions page covering many common questions about seat belt and child safety seat use.
Electronic Devices and Texting
Any learner permit or intermediate driver license holder cannot use an electronic device (hand-held or hands-free) or any other type of mobile communications device while driving. It's illegal for anyone to type or read a text message while driving.
Also, anyone driving a school bus may not use an electronic device, unless it's to report an emergency situation.
Electronic device use is prohibited in school zones while warning lights are flashing.
Headlights must stay on whenever driving from 30 minutes after sunset until 30 minutes before sunrise, and whenever conditions make it impossible to clearly see at least 200 ft ahead.
Additionally, you must use headlights whenever precipitation requires the use of windshield wipers.
High beams should not be used within 500 ft of another vehicle.
Anyone riding on a motorcycle, moped or scooter must wear an approved helmet.
Additionally, protective goggles or glasses must be worn unless the cycle is equipped with a windshield.
Reporting an Unsafe Driver
Although the state doesn't have a special number to report dangerous or suspected drunk drivers, call the Tennessee Highway Patrol on your cell phone at *THP (or *847) to report emergency situations encountered while driving.
Knowingly leaving a child under 7 years old in a vehicle on public property without the supervision of someone who is at least 13 years old can be considered a Class B misdemeanor (with a $200 fine) if any of the following are true:
- The vehicle's engine is running
- The child's health or safety could be at risk
- The keys to the vehicle are inside the car