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New TN Law bans handheld cell phone use in school zones

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Tennessee lawmakers have made it clear that drivers need fewer distractions behind the wheel, especially when placed in positions where their attention is needed most for the safety of others…in school zones.

Tennessee has already banned texting while driving on roadways in the state and officers have also been known to stop distracted drivers for any other reason necessary — from talking on cell phones and driving carelessly, taking selfies, applying makeup or other actions that keep ones’ eyes from the road.

Concern over these distractions led to a bill banning handheld cell phone use in active school zones in the state that is set to go into effect next year.

The law states that it’s an offense — Class C misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of up to $50 — for a person to knowingly operate a motor vehicle in any marked school zone in Tennessee, when a warning flasher or flashers are in operation, and talk on a hand-held mobile (cellular) telephone while the vehicle is in motion. However, the offense is not committed if the telephone is equipped with a hands-free device, for drivers 18 years of age and older.

A driver under age 18 is prohibited from talking on their phones either by using a hands-free or handheld while driving through an active school zone.

State Sen. Jim Tracy, one of the sponsors of the bill said lawmakers contemplated pushing legislation that outlawed driving while talking on a handheld phone completely during the past legislative session. However, the state senator said like-minded legislators are waiting for persuasive feedback.

“There is a lot of interest in (outlawing handheld phone calls while driving),” Tracy said in an interview with the Tennessean newspaper. “We are definitely looking at it. It depends on if the people are ready.”

“When you talk to people in my district, they are very frustrated with people using cell phones while they drive,” added Tracy, while noting that most phones now can be used hands-free with a speaker, Bluetooth or earphones.

The new law will go into effect starting January 1, 2018.

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