Tennessee law prohibits cell phones in school zones

A law in Tennessee prohibits cell phones in school zones.

Students, parents and all drivers in Tennessee must adjust to a state law that makes talking on a cell phone — with the device in hand — illegal in an active school zone.

Not only texting. or, reading texts. But, also talking on a phone in your hand.

"Talking on the phone can be distracting. We discourage any use of a cell phone while the car is in motion," said Kingsport Public Information Officer, Tom Patton. "But the law says that if you’re going to do that, it has to be a hands free device not a hand-held device."

The Tennessee law states it’s illegal to have a handheld device whether on speaker or by your ear. The school zone varies between 20 and 25 mph and happens around 7 to 7:45 and 2 to 4:15.

"You have lots of children getting in and out of cars and we have children walking to and from school," said Andy True, the assistant superintendent to the Kingsport City Schools. "Anything that can be done to make the environment and situation safer for them we want to encourage.

The state law was enacted on January first.

Violations carry a $50 fine.

Although it applies only to hand-held use of phones, studies have shown that hands-free calls also are a hazard.

"It decreases their reaction time," said Patton. "People need to be able to react in a school zone because kids are so unpredictable they dart in front of cars, and they get out of cars suddenly."

But some parents in Kingsport were unaware of the law.

"I had no idea. Especially with traffic out here on stone drive, it’s best to be very alert because a lot of the kids are coming to school and there’s a lot of traffic that comes with it," said Jeff Stefan, a concerned parent.

"I think it’s a great idea because there are kids that walk across road all the time and sometimes they walk across the street by themselves," said Stephanie Minton, mother of two. "If you’re looking down on your phone, then you can’t see the small child. Especially when you’re in a big vehicle."

"Anytime these new laws going to place it takes time for the citizens to learn and the officers to learn them. We have to find ways to best enforce them," said Patton.

Patton said officers are patrolling school zones and are looking for any violations to ensure the safety of students and drivers.

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