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Operation of Motor Vehicles

Reference Number: MTAS-595
Reviewed Date: 03/21/2023

Following Fire Apparatus
Drivers other than those on official business are prohibited from following within 500 feet of any fire apparatus answering a call and may not park in the same block as the fire equipment. No driver may cross an unprotected fire hose without permission from the fire department official in command. T.C.A. §§ 55-8-168–169.

Transporting Children in Pickup Trucks
It is a Class C misdemeanor under state law to transport upon any street or highway of any city a child under age 12 in the bed of a pickup truck of less than three-quarters of a ton. A city may, by ordinance, make it a local violation to transport upon any city street or highway a child between 6 and 12 years old in the bed of a pickup truck of less than three-quarters of a ton. However, people transporting children in parades or for agricultural purposes are exempt from this provision. T.C.A. § 55-8-189.

Vehicle Weight
Maximum weight, height, and length limits for trucks and trailer trucks are established by state law. It is the duty of municipal officers to prohibit any vehicle from exceeding such limits on a public highway unless a special permit has been issued by the state commissioner of transportation. T.C.A. §§ 55-7-101, et seq.

Accident Report
Any automobile accident that involves bodily injury, death, or damage to a person’s property of more than $400 must be reported. Reports must include information on insurance policies of the drivers, including the name of the insurer, and a copy of the certificate of compliance with the financial responsibility law. An investigating officer must send a copy of the report to the state Department of Safety within seven days of completing the investigation (a copy is to be kept in the district Highway Patrol office). Standard report forms are supplied to any city police department by the Department of Safety. This report is a public record. T.C.A. § 55-10-107, T.C.A. § 55-10-108(b), T.C.A. § 55-10-111, T.C.A. § 55-12-104.

Accident Response Fees Prohibited
A municipality may not impose an accident response service fee on a driver or owner of a motor vehicle or an insurance company but may bill them for ambulance services provided in response to a motor vehicle accident. T.C.A. § 55-10-108.

Funeral Processions
T.C.A. § 55-8-183 governs the identification, escort, operation, and conduct of traffic with respect to funeral processions. Any municipality may adopt the provisions of this law by a two-thirds vote of its legislative body. The presiding officer must certify its adoption to the secretary of state.

This law provides that where a funeral procession is properly identified, it is an offense punishable by a fine of up to $50 for the operator of a motor vehicle to:

  • knowingly fail to yield the right-of-way to the procession across an intersection;
  • pass or attempt to pass the procession from behind on a two-lane street, road or highway; or
  • drive or attempt to drive between the vehicles in the procession.

For the purposes of this law, a "properly identified" funeral procession must be "indicated by a flashing amber light, an auditory signaling device mounted on the lead vehicle, or by other properly identified escort, and a flag or other appropriate marking device on each vehicle in the procession indicating that such vehicle is part of the funeral procession."

Many municipalities provide police escorts to funeral processions. They may be held liable under the Tennessee Governmental Tort Liability Act for negligent escort. Anderson v. City of Chattanooga, 978 S.W.2d 105 (Tenn. App. 1998). Generally, T.C.A. § 55-8-153 does not appear to affect the liability of municipalities that provide funeral escorts. Whether or not a municipality provides funeral escorts, it probably has the right to impose reasonable time, place, and manner restrictions on funeral processions.

Oncoming traffic meeting a funeral procession is no longer prohibited from pulling over and stopping. Motorcycle escorts of funeral processions may have a green strobe light or a type approved by the county sheriff that is used only when escorting a funeral. Motorcycle escorts also may have a bell or siren approved by the sheriff that is used only when escorting a funeral procession. Motorcycle escorts may operate between lanes or rows of vehicles. T.C.A. § 55-8-183.

T.C.A. § 39-17-317 makes it a Class C misdemeanor to make any utterance, gesture, or display that is offensive to the sensibilities of an ordinary person within 500 feet of a funeral, funeral procession, burial or viewing of a dead person.

Disposal of Abandoned, Immobile or Unattended Motor Vehicles
A police department may take into custody any motor vehicle found abandoned, immobile, unattended, or used in curbstoning on public or private property; provided, that any motor vehicle used in curbstoning on residential property may not be taken into custody unless the police department provides notice on the motor vehicle at least forty-eight (48) hours prior to the seizure. Other detailed provisions may be found in T.C.A. §§ 55-16-104, et seq.