tennessee driver information
Hi there, Tennessee drivers. Welcome to our overview of driving in the Volunteer State, from stats and facts to info on official driving records and the licensing process.
Tennessee driver information
Number of licensed drivers: 4,559,507
Registered vehicles: 5,140,000
Licensing and registration authority: Tennessee Driver Services
Car accidents, moving violations, and penalties
Annual cost of crashes to state: $1.15 billion (according the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
Traffic fatalities: 948 in 2011 (a decrease from 1,032 in 2010)
Tennessee driving records and the point system
A conviction for a traffic violation in Tennessee can add 1 to 9 points to your driving record. Most speeding tickets (25 mph over the limit or less) and right-of-way violations tack 1 to 4 points onto your record. Major traffic offenses, like excessive speeding and reckless driving, can add 8 or 9 points.
Driver improvement program
If you accumulate 12 points on your driving record within 12 months, you'll be required to attend an administrative hearing. If you attend the hearing, you may be given the chance to attend a defensive driving class to avoid a suspended license. If you don't attend the hearing, your license will likely be suspended for 6–12 months.
Reporting a car accident in Tennessee
We recommend calling the police to the scene of any car accident, but, in some cases, the police may not arrive to take a report.
You're legally required to report all accidents where any injuries are involved or damages exceed $400 or more. The report should be filed with the Department of Safety within 20 days of the crash to comply with state law.
You can download the accident report form here (PDF).
Tennessee has strict fines for DUI offenders. Fines for a first-time DUI conviction range from $350 to $1,500. The court can also mandate jail time ranging from 48 hours for a first offense to 150 days for a fourth offense.
Other DUI penalties include:
- 1st offense: $350 to $1,500 fine, 1-year license revocation
- 2nd offense: $600 to $3,500 fine, 2-year license revocation
- 3rd offense: $1,000 to $10,000, 3- to 10-year license revocation
- 4th offense: $3,000 to $15,000, 5-year to indefinite license revocation
Moving to Tennessee
If you're a new Tennessee resident, you have 30 days to get your vehicle registered in the state. You can register your car at a local office of the county clerk. Find one near you.
As a new resident, you have 30 days to obtain your new license.
Drivers in the military
If you're stationed outside of Tennessee, your license will remain valid while you're on active duty. You can visit your local county clerk's office to get a special sticker on your license that indicates active military service.
Once you return home from deployment, you'll have 60 days to get your license renewed.
Smart Pass program
If you drive a hybrid or a registered low-emission/energy-efficient vehicle, you may be able to use the HOV (high occupancy vehicle) lane — even if you're the only one in the car.
You can apply for the Smart Pass decal (free) online. If you get one, place it on the lower right corner of your rear window and cruise with the carpoolers at any time.
Young drivers in Tennessee
Tennessee's Graduated Drivers License Program is designed to help young drivers get more experience behind the wheel.
- School attendance: signed letter from school verifying attendance and progress
- Age requirement: 15 years old
- Minimum learners permit period: 180 days
Intermediate restricted license
- Age requirement: 16 years old
- Parent/guardian practice hours: 50 (10 hours at night)
- Nighttime driving restrictions: 11 p.m.–6 a.m.
- Passenger restrictions: Only one other passenger allowed
Intermediate unrestricted license
- Age requirement: 17 years old
- Driving restrictions: All passengers aged 4 to 17 must wear seat belts. Children under the age of 4 must be in a car seat.
- Age for regular Class D license: 18 years old
Penalties for underage drinking
If you're 18 to 20 years old and get any DUIs or other alcohol-related convictions (like buying, attempting to buy, or possessing alcohol), you'll lose your driving privileges for one year. A second offense means 2 years.
If you're between 13 and 17, your driving privilege will be suspended for a year or until you reach 17, whichever is longer. If you have a second conviction, count on a 2-year suspension or until you're 18 (whichever is longer).
If you're driving with a BAC of .02, you'll receive a one-year license suspension and a $250 fine. In some cases, public service work may also be required.
Teen drivers and traffic convictions
If you're under 18 and accumulate 6 or more points within a year, you'll be required to attend an administrative hearing, along with your parent or guardian, to discuss your record. The state will then determine the appropriate measures to take. You'll also be placed in the Driver Improvement Program.
Tennessee car insurance guide
Conveniently locate coverage requirements and Esurance perks if you live in Tennessee.
State of Tennessee's Online Driver Services
Renew your drivers license, change your address, and handle other driver services.
Defensive driving courses
If you need to take a defensive driving course, check out this list of state-approved ones.