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Bristol, Tenn. police: Talking on handheld cellphone is illegal in school zones next year

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The Bristol Tennessee Police Department said in a release sent Friday that a law will go into effect Jan. 1 which will make it illegal to talk on a handheld cellphone while driving through an active school zone.

Police said it has long been illegal to text or read texts while driving in school zones.

The law is a Class C misdemeanor, "punishable by a fine of up to $50, for a person to knowingly operate a motor vehicle and talk on a hand-held mobile telephone while the vehicle is in motion in any marked school zone in the State of Tennessee when a warning flasher or flashers are in operation."

If a driver is 18 or older and the phone is equipped with a hands-free device, it will not be considered an offense. However, drivers under the age of 18 who possess a permit or intermediate license will be breaking the law if they talk either using a hands-free or handheld device while driving.

"We are concerned that this new law will be catching people unaware in January as our children start back to school after the holiday break," Major Matt Austin said. A recent study by Safe Kids USA found that one in six drivers in school zones are distracted, with the most common distraction being cellphones."

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