How It Works
Fix your ticket now

Tennessee New Resident Guide

Welcome to Tennessee! As a new driver to this state you will need to be aware of our unique traffic laws and regulations. Here's what you need to keep in mind while driving in Tennessee. Some of these rules may be the same as what you're already used to, but others will be drastically different!

Licensing and Residency Requirements



  • Whenever a licensee moves, the licensee must notify the DOS within 10 days of a change of address.
  • New residents or those returning to Tennessee and holding a driver license from another state must obtain a Tennessee driver license no later than thirty days after establishing residency.


Graduated Licensing Program



Learner's Permit

Requirements

  • Must be at least 15;
  • Must pass vision screening and written knowledge exam;
  • Must show proof of school attendance/progress.

Privileges and Restrictions

  • May not drive between 10 PM and 6 AM;
  • May only drive accompanied by a licensed driver 21 or older;
  • Safety belt use is mandatory for all GDL license holders and passengers 4 to 17.

Intermediate Restricted Driver License

Requirements

  • Must be at least 16;
  • Must have held Learner Permit for 180 days;
  • Must have 50 hours of behind the wheel driving experience, including 10 hours night driving;
  • Must pass road test.

Privileges and Restrictions

  • May only have one other passenger in the vehicle, unless
    • The passengers are siblings residing in the same house and going to and from school, and license holder has parent permission;
    • One or more passengers is 21 and has a valid, unrestricted license.
  • May not drive between 11 PM and 6 AM, unless
    • Accompanied by a parent or guardian, or licensed driver 21 or older who has been designated in writing by parent or guardian;
    • Driving to or from school sponsored activity or event or work, and have written permission from parent authorizing driving
    • Driving to or from hunting or fishing between 4 AM and 6 AM and have a valid hunting or fishing license;
    • Safety belt use is mandatory for all GDL license holders and passengers 4 to 17.

Intermediate Unrestricted License

Requirements

  • Must have held Intermediate Restricted License for one year;
  • If teen driver has received six or more points on license, contributes to a traffic crash, or is convicted of a second seatbelt violation, they will have to wait an additional 90 days to apply for an intermediate unrestricted license;
  • If the teen driver gets a second moving violation while holding the Intermediate Restricted Driver License, he or she will need to complete an approved Driver Education class before being allowed to get an Intermediate.

Unrestricted Driver License.

Privileges and Restrictions

  • The word "Intermediate" will still be on the license, but the restrictions will be lifted.

Regular Unrestricted License

Requirements

  • Must be at least 18.


Violation Point Counts

The amount of points that go against your driver's license for specific types of violations.



8 Point Violations

  • Speeding 46 mph and above in excess of speed zone
  • Reckless endangerment by vehicle, misdemeanor
  • Speeding 36 mph and above in excess of posted speed in construction zone
  • Contributing to an accident resulting in another's death
  • Driving while license canceled
  • Fleeing Law Enforcement Officer (misdemeanor)
  • Child Endangerment (misdemeanor)

6 Point Violations

  • Speeding 36 through 45 mph in excess of speed zone
  • Reckless Driving
  • Violation of driver license or certificate restrictions
  • Failure to yield to emergency vehicles
  • Failure to stop at railroad crossing
  • Speeding 26 through 35 mph in excess of posted speed in construction zone

5 Point Violations

  • Leaving the scene of an accident (property damage only)
  • Speeding 26 through 35 mph in excess of speed zone
  • Speeding 16 through 25 mph in excess of posted speed in construction zone

4 Point Violations

  • Speeding 16 through 25 mph in excess of speed zone
  • Signs and control devices - Failing to obey traffic instructions
  • Improper passing - passing where prohibited
  • Wrong way, side or direction
  • Failing to yield the right-of-way
  • Failure to report an accident (property damage only)
  • Speeding 6 through 15 mph in excess of posted speed in construction zone
  • Tickets and court abstracts where speed not indicated in construction zone
  • Contributing to an accident resulting in bodily injury

3 Point Violations

  • Tickets and Court Abstractions where speed not indicated on source documents
  • Speeding 6 through 15 mph in excess of speed zone
  • Following improperly
  • Making improper turn
  • Miscellaneous traffic violations failing to maintain control, improper control, etc., or any offense involving the operation of a motor vehicle not herein specified
  • Contributing to an accident involving property damage

2 Point Violations

  • Speeding 1 through 5 mph in excess of posted speed in construction zone

1 Point Violations

  • Speeding 1 through 5 mph in excess of speed zone 1

Additional Information

Convictions of moving traffic violations which occurred more than two (2) years prior to the Department's receipt of such report or notice shall not be used within the Driver Improvement Program.

Adult Point System

  • Drivers that accumulate twelve (12) or more points on their driving record within any 12-month period are sent a notice of proposed suspension and given an opportunity to attend an administrative hearing.
    • If they fail to request a hearing, their driving privileges are suspended of a period of six to 12 months.
    • In most cases, when a driver requests a hearing, they are given the opportunity to attend a defensive driving class in lieu of suspension or a reduction of suspension time.

Drivers Less Than Eighteen Years of Age

Fewer than 6 points

  • Driver is sent a warning letter from the Department of Safety, with a copy sent to the driver's parent/guardian.

6 - 9 points

  • Driver is sent a notice of proposed suspension from the Department of Safety and is placed in the Driver Improvement Program, with a copy sent to the driver's parent/guardian.
  • Driver will be required to attend an administrative hearing, with their parent or guardian present, to discuss the points assigned to their driving record.
  • Driving privileges may be suspended for 3 to 6 months.
  • Driver must attend and complete a Defensive Driving Course within 90 days.
  • Failure to attend hearing by the driver and parent/guardian present will result in a mandatory 6 month suspension of the juvenile's driving privileges.
  • If a driver's license is suspended, all legal and departmental requirements for reinstatement, including proof of liability insurance, completion of a Defensive Driving Course and payment of reinstatement fees, must be met before driving privileges can be reinstated.

10 or more points

  • Driver is sent a notice of proposed suspension from the Department of Safety and is placed in the Driver Improvement Program, with a copy sent to the driver's parent/guardian.
  • Driver will be required to attend an administrative hearing, with their parent or guardian present, to discuss the points assigned to their driving record.
  • Driving privileges will be suspended for 6 months.
  • Failure to attend hearing by the driver and parent/guardian will result in a mandatory 6 month suspension of the juvenile's driving privileges and attendance at a Defensive Driving Course.
  • All legal and departmental requirements for reinstatement, including proof of liability insurance, completion of a Defensive Driving Course and payment of reinstatement fees, must be met before driving privileges can be reinstated.

2nd or subsequent offense

  • If a driver accumulates 6 or more points on their driving record in a 12-month period following the first offense, the driver is sent a notice of proposed suspension from the Department of Safety and is placed in the Driver Improvement Program, with a copy sent to the driver's parent/guardian.
  • Driving privileges will be suspended for 6 or 12 months depending on the record.
  • All legal and departmental requirements for reinstatement, including proof of liability insurance, completion of a Defensive Driving Course and payment of reinstatement fees, must be met before driving privileges can be reinstated.


Insurance Requirements



The Tennessee Code Annotated (TCA) 55-12-102(12) references minimum limits of liability for the state of Tennessee which currently are:

  • $25,000.00 for one injury or death.
  • $50,000.00 for all injuries or deaths.
  • $15,000.00 for property damage for one accident.


Headlight Laws



You must dim your headlights from high to low beam when you are within 500 feet of an oncoming vehicle, or when within 500 feet of a vehicle traveling ahead of you.

You must use your headlights:

  • 30 minutes after sunset until 30 minutes before sunrise.
  • At any time when daylight is not good enough for you to see persons or vehicles clearly at a distance of 200 feet ahead.
  • When rain, mist, snow, or other precipitation requires constant use of windshield wipers.

There is no specific law allowing or prohibiting headlight flashing though there have been cases which have found that it could be considered a form of protected speech.



Implied Consent Laws



  • Revocation First refusal - 1 year.
  • Subsequent refusal - 2 years.
  • Refusal for DWI - serious bodily injury - 2 years.
  • Refusal for DWI - death - 5 years.
  • A restricted license may be issued.


DUI Penalties



First Conviction (Class A misdemeanor)

  • 48 hours imprisonment.
  • $350 - $1,500 fine.
  • 24 hours community service as part of probation.
  • 1 year license revocation.
  • Court may additionally prohibit driving for up to 6 months.

First Conviction (BAC .20 or more) (Class A misdemeanor)

  • 7 days imprisonment.
  • $350 - $1,500 fine.
  • 24 hours community service as part of probation.
  • 1 year license revocation.
  • Court may additionally prohibit driving for up to 6 months.

Second Conviction (within 10 years) (Class A misdemeanor)

  • 45 days - 11 months, 29 days imprisonment.
  • $600 - $3,500 fine.
  • 2 year license revocation.
  • Court may additionally prohibit driving for up to 3 years.

Third Conviction (within 10 years) (Class A misdemeanor)

  • 120 days - 11 months, 29 days imprisonment.
  • $1,100 - $10,000.
  • 3 year license revocation.
  • Court may additionally prohibit driving for up to 10 years.

Fourth or Subsequent Conviction (within 10 years) (Class E felony)

  • 150 days - 6 years imprisonment.
  • $3,000 - $15,000 fine.
  • 5 year license revocation.
  • Court may additionally prohibit driving for up to 10 years.

Community Service

  • Court may order offender to remove litter from public property for any prescribed period in addition to other penalties.
  • Court may sentence offender to 200 hours of community service.

Child Endangerment

If a person is convicted of DUI with a passenger under the age of 18, the person's sentence shall be enhanced by a mandatory minimum period of 30 days and a mandatory minimum fine of $1,000. Both incarceration and fine are in addition to any punishment imposed by the DUI statute.

Alcohol Education and Treatment

  • Drug and alcohol assessment required for every person convicted of a DUI offense.
  • Alcohol safety DWI program required as part of probation.
  • For second and subsequent convictions (within 5 years), a condition of probation is participation in a rehabilitation program treatment facility and to reissue license.

Ignition Interlock

May be required in addition to any other penalties. Mandatory if:

  • the person has a BAC .15 or more.
  • the person is accompanied by a person under age 18.
  • the person is involved in a traffic crash, which is a proximate result of such person's intoxication.
  • there is an implied consent violation.


Open Container Law



In Tennessee, the open container law prohibits a driver from possessing or consuming an alcoholic beverage or beer while operating a motor vehicle. The law further specifies that a motor vehicle is in operation if its engine is operating, whether or not the motor vehicle is moving.

Tennessee law also provides that any municipality, by ordinance, or any county, by resolution, may prohibit passengers of a motor vehicle from consuming or possessing an alcoholic beverage or beer in an open container during the operation of the vehicle by its driver.



Red Light Violation Fines



  • Traditional enforcement: $50 fine/points.
  • Auto enforcement: $50 fine; no points.


Construction Zone Penalties



Speeding violations when workers are present are subject to an enhanced fine of $250 - $500.



Turn Signal Information



Signal your intention to turn or change lanes at least 50 feet in advance.



Hazard Light Information



Hazard light use is permitted.



Funeral Procession Right-of-Way Laws



  • The law gives the procession the right-of-way if the lead vehicle has a flashing amber light or is led by a "properly identified" escort. The procession must drive on the right side of the roadway and be as closely spaced as safely possible. It must proceed at no less than 45 miles per hour on a limited access highway and no less than five miles per hour below the posted limit on other roads.
  • The lead vehicle must comply with traffic lights and signs, and the other vehicles may follow without stopping if their headlights are on.
  • The procession must yield to emergency vehicles or when directed by a police officer.
  • Vehicles following the procession on a two-lane road are prohibited from attempting to pass it. Other drivers are prohibited from driving between vehicles in the procession, unless directed by a police officer.


School Bus Laws



Requirements

  • Vehicles are required to stop unless the bus is on a different roadway of a highway with separate roadways for traffic in opposite directions, divided by median space or barrier not suitable for vehicular traffic.

Penalties

  • Failure to stop and remain stopped when required is a Class A misdemeanor and will result in a fine between $250 and $1,000.


Bicyclist Passing Distance



A 3-foot minimum passing distance is required.



Motorcycle Laws



Licensing

  • A person who is at least 16 years of age and a legal resident of Tennessee may apply for a motorcycle license.
  • Minors who are 15 years of age and legal residents of Tennessee may apply for a motorcycle learner's permit. Permit holders may only operate during daylight hours, are limited to a 20 mile radius of the permit holder's home, may not operate a motorcycle on the Interstate system, may not operate a motorcycle with an engine size greater than 650cc, and may not carry any passengers.
  • Applicants who have successfully completed a motorcycle rider training course may be exempted from taking the licensing skills test and/or the knowledge test.

Protective Gear

  • All motorcycle operators and passengers on a motorcycle must wear a safety helmet, unless the person is over age 21 and in an enclosed cab.
  • Every motorcycle must be equipped with a windshield, or the operator and any passenger must wear safety goggles, face shields, or glasses containing impact resistant lenses.

Headlights

  • Every motorcycle must be equipped with at least 1 and not more than 2 headlamps, which must be on at all times during operation.

Sharing the Road

  • Lane splitting is not authorized.
  • Two motorcycles may travel side-by-side in a single lane.


Using the Shoulder to Pass



You may not drive off the roadway to pass on the right.



Passing Laws



Do Not Pass:

  • When approaching or upon a hill or curve where the driver's view is obstructed within 300 feet.
  • When approaching within 100 feet of or traversing any intersection or railroad grade crossing.
  • When approaching within 100 feet of any bridge, viaduct, or tunnel.

When Being Passed:

  • Give way to the right in favor of the overtaking vehicle.
  • The overtaking vehicle may signal by honking its horn.
  • Do not increase the speed of your vehicle until completely passed by the overtaking vehicle.


Speed Limits



  • 70 mph on controlled-access State highways or interstate highways with four or more lanes.
  • 65 mph on all other highways or roads.


Safety Belt and Child Safety Seat Laws



Safety Belts

  • Occupants 16 years and older in the front seat must wear safety belts.
  • Police may not stop vehicles solely for belt law violations.
  • Drivers 18 and older who do not contest the citation pay a $10 fine by mail. Drivers ages 16 and 17 and older who do not contest the citation pay a $20 fine by mail. Otherwise, the fine for a first offense is $50.

Child Seats

  • Children younger than 1 year or 20 pounds or less must be in a rear-facing infant seat.
  • Children 1 - 3 years and 20 pounds or more must be in a forward facing infant seat.
  • Children 4 - 8 years and less than 4'9" must use a booster seat.
  • Children 8 years and younger and less than 4'9" must be in the rear seat if available. Rear seat is also recommended for children 9 - 12.
  • Children 9 - 15 years or any child 12 or younger who is 4'9" or taller must be restrained, and may use an adult safety belt.
  • Police may stop vehicles solely for child seat law violations.
  • The fine for a first offense is $50.


Emergency Vehicle Laws



Move Over

  • When you see any of these vehicles displaying flashing lights while stopped on or adjacent to the roadway:
    • Emergency vehicle.
    • Recovery vehicle.
    • Highway maintenance vehicle.
    • Utility service vehicle.
  • You must do the following:
    • If on a highway having at least four lanes with not less than two lanes proceeding in the same direction as the approaching vehicle, make a lane change into a lane not adjacent to that of the authorized emergency vehicle, if possible with due regard to safety and traffic conditions.
    • If changing lanes would be impossible or unsafe, reduce the speed of the vehicle, maintaining a safe speed for road conditions.

Following

  • Do not follow a fire apparatus traveling in response to a fire alarm closer than 500 feet, or drive into or park within the block where the fire apparatus has stopped in answer to a fire alarm.

Collision Procedures

  • You must provide the following information to any other person involved in the accident, or any police officer at the scene of the crash:
    • Driver's name and address;
    • Vehicle registration number;
    • Show driver's license upon request.
  • Provide assistance to any injured person, including transporting them or making arrangements for transportation to a hospital or doctor, if necessary or requested.
  • If the crash resulted in injury, death, or property damage of $50 or more, you must report the accident immediately to the local police department, county sheriff, or state highway patrol. If the driver is unable to make the report, any other occupant of the vehicle who is able to must do so.
  • Unattended vehicle or property
    • If you have collided with a vehicle that is unattended, locate and notify the operator or owner of the driver's name and address and the owner's name and address. If you are unable to do so, leave a written notice providing this information and a statement of the circumstances. You must also include insurance policy information.
    • If you have collided with other unattended property on or adjacent to a highway, locate and notify the owner of the driver's name and address, the vehicle registration number, and show your driver's license if requested.
  • Report crash
    • If the crash resulted in injury, death, or property damage of $400 or more, you must report the accident in writing to the department of safety within 20 days after the accident.
    • If the driver is physically incapable of making a written report, and the driver is not the owner of the vehicle, then the owner must make the report within 20 days after learning of the accident.


Fix your ticket now