EPD, school systems aim to raise awareness about new law

Published 3:18 pm Thursday, January 4, 2018

Improving safety on roadways across the state is the goal of a new law now on the books for 2018.
Along with the other new laws that went into effect this week, it is now a fineable offense to talk on a hands-hand mobile device while driving through a marked school zone when a warning flasher or flashers are in operation. Drivers that break the law are subject to a fine not to exceed $50 if they are found guilty. The new law does not prohibit drivers from using a cell phone if they are using a hands-free device.
State Representative Johnson Holsclaw, Jr. represents Carter County and served as the primary sponsor of the bill in the State House while State Sen. Jim Tracy carried the Senate’s version.
Locally, officials with the Elizabethton Police Department noted the bill could only be positive for promoting safety for motorists.
“We believe this law is very important,” said EPD Capt. Shane Darling. “We make an effort to proactively ensure the safety of our community, especially our children, and this law will help in that effort.”
Distracted driving continues to be an issue for the Volunteer State.
While texting and driving was officially banned in Tennessee in 2009, the issue keeps presenting itself. According to information provided by the State of Tennessee website, 24,743 crashes in 2016 were caused by distracted driving, which resulted in 12 percent of all crashes in the state.
According to EverQuote.com’s Safe Driving Report 2016-2017, Tennessee is the third-worst state in the country when it comes to distracted driving.
Rep. Holsclaw recently told the Elizabethton Star promoting this initiative will start in school zones, but hopefully grow over the years across the state.
EPD officials are now working diligently to help inform the public about the new law.
“When motorists are passing through a school zone, they should be concentrating on slowing down and watching for pedestrians,” said EPD Chief Jason Shaw. “If you are texting or using a cellular phone, it is distracting your attention and could potentially cause someone, including yourself, to get injured.”
Darling added EPD has worked closely with both Elizabethton and Carter County school systems to help spread information about the law.
“Both the city school system and county school system are putting out a public service announcement over their Skylert systems to remind parents and students that this law is now in effect,” he said.
At Elizabethton High School, teacher and crossing guard Daniel Proffitt said he hasn’t witnessed much cell phone risk while on duty, but the ones that do create an unnecessary risk for others.
“Those who are on cell phones, both talking and texting, are obviously distracted and impeding traffic when they are sitting still,” he said in an emailed statement.
For more information about the laws, the public is encouraged to visit the Elizabethton Police Department’s Facebook or Twitter social media accounts. A video, along with other resources, is provided on the accounts.

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox