Now that you are familiar with some of Tennessee’s auto insurance requirements, review rules of the road. Driving laws vary from state to state, so if you are curious about other states’ laws, check out our state-by-state driving guide.
Tennessee is an at-fault state, meaning that the at-fault party pays for both property damage and medical expenses. Tennessee’s modified comparative law states that an accident victim’s recovery is limited based on the percentage of their fault. If you are 50 percent or more at fault, you cannot obtain compensation.
Although you are not required to have uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage in Tennessee, 24 percent of Tennessee’s drivers are uninsured. That accounts for an estimated 1,285,116 drivers.4
If you have more than one car on multiple policies, you can stack uninsured and underinsured coverage. To find your stacked coverage amount, multiply your selected limit by your number of vehicles. In Tennessee, stacking is allowed as long as it is across multiple policies.
DUIs stay on your record for 10 years in Tennessee. The penalties for driving under the influence depend on whether you are a first offender or a repeat offender.
||48 hours to 11 months
||45 days to 11 months
||120 days to 11 months
||150 days to 6 years
|Driver’s license revocation period
|Ignition interlock device period
||Up to 1 year
||Up to 1 year
||Up to 1 year
||Up to 1 year
Seat Belt Laws
The driver and any passengers must wear their seat belts at all times on Tennessee roads. Tennessee has primary enforcement for seat belts in the front seat and secondary enforcement for seat belts in the rear seats.
The primary seat belt law allows law enforcement to ticket those in the front seat for not wearing seat belts without any other traffic violations. However, officers can only ticket individuals without seat belts in the rear seats if another citable traffic violation occurs.
Distracted Driving Laws
Tennessee has both a handheld ban and a texting ban. You cannot use your cell phone in any capacity while driving. If you are caught using your phone while driving, you will pay a $50 fine for your first offense and $100 for your second or subsequent offenses. Not only will you be fined, but the offense will also count three points against your license, or six points against your license if you are under 18.
Teen Driver Laws
In Tennessee, you must be 15 years old and pass a vision screening and a Class D knowledge test to receive your learner’s permit. While driving with your learner’s permit, a licensed driver over the age of 21 must supervise you. You may not drive between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.
To get your intermediate license, you must be 16 years old, have had a valid learner’s permit for at least 180 days, have 50 hours of behind-the-wheel driving experience, and pass a road skills test. While driving with an intermediate license, you are only allowed to have one passenger under 21. You are not allowed to drive between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m.
Statute of Limitations for Claims
Following a car accident, you have three years to make a property damage claim and one year to make a personal injury claim. If you do not make a claim within these time frames, there is no guarantee that your auto insurance will cover your losses.
Cancellation/Non-Renewal Notification Laws
Auto insurance providers cannot cancel policies that have been in place for over 60 days unless you have not paid the premium, you have committed fraud or misrepresentation on your application, or your driver’s license has been suspended. Tennessee providers have 10 days to notify you of a midterm cancellation if it is due to nonpayment, or 20 days for all other reasons.
Sometimes, providers decide not to renew your policy once it expires. Providers must give you notice and explain why they dropped your policy. Some of the most common reasons for non-renewal are that they no longer offer that type of insurance, they don’t want to write as many policies in your area, or you were caught driving under the influence. Tennessee providers have 30 days to notify you of non-renewal before your policy expires.
Tennessee allows self-insurance if you own more than 25 vehicles. The minimum collateral is at the discretion of the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance.
Car Inspection Requirements
In certain counties of Tennessee, vehicles must go through emissions testing every year at your county’s emissions testing station. If you have an out-of-state vehicle, you can download and fill out a vehicle exemption form from your county’s website. These are the only counties in Tennessee that do not require testing:
An SR-22 is a financial responsibility certificate that verifies you have the state’s required minimum insurance. If you have too many traffic violations, a DUI or a suspended license, or if you have violated Tennessee’s minimum state insurance requirements, you will need an SR-22.
Tennessee requires you to hold an SR-22 for five years from the date of your license suspension. An SR-22 is not required if five years pass from the date of your suspension before you can get your license back. This may occur in situations such as imprisonment.
If you have seven or more points on your license as a Tennessee driver, you can take a defensive driving course instead of a license suspension, or to get a reduction of suspension time. You can also take a defensive driving course for discounts on your auto insurance. Exact discounts vary by provider.
The state requires courses to be a minimum of four hours long. You are allowed to take the courses in person or online. To complete the course, you need to pass a 20-question final exam with a score of 80 percent or above. If you fail, you can retake the test as many times as you need.