New law prohibits most phone use while driving, goes into effect July 1

Starting July 1, Tennessee drivers can receive tickets for having their cell phone on their person, whether making a phone call or checking the time.

The campaign Hands Free Tennessee has spearheaded the bill and its provisions, saying it has partnered with Tennessee Department of Transportation and the Tennessee Department of Tourism Development.

The new law makes it illegal to “hold a cellphone or mobile device with any part of their body; write, send, or read any text-based communication; reach for a cellphone or mobile device in a manner that requires the driver to no longer be in a seated driving position or properly restrained by a seat belt; watch a video or movie on a cellphone or mobile device, and record or broadcast video on a cellphone or mobile device,” according to the initiative’s website.

“Under the old law, the restrictions of using a mobile device was limited to preventing their use for texting only,” Elizabethton Police Captain Christopher Bowers said. “It was difficult to enforce because it was not known if someone was texting versus emailing, placing a call, internet surfing or watching a video on their mobile device.”

He said this ambiguity is resolved under this new, Hands Free law.

“It simplifies the matter by saying a mobile device cannot be used in the driver’s hands at all in a moving vehicle unless for making a call for bona fide emergencies to law enforcement, fire, EMS, 911 or other emergency services,” he said.

Hands Free Tennessee states there were over 24,600 crashes involving a “distracted driver” in the state last year, roughly 63 crashes a day, and 929 of those crashes took place in Carter County.

Those statistics, however, do not specify whether those distracted driving reports were due to a cell phone or other factors, a point of ambiguity critics have pointed out over the past week.

In an editorial for Knox News, George Korda wrote cell phones were not the only cause of distracted driving.

“If distracted driving is the reason, here are additional suggestions of what can be banned to make the roads safer: eating a hamburger, drinking a bottle of water, changing stations on the radio, switching out CDs in your CD player, adjusting an iPod, putting on mascara or other makeup, conversations with a person in the passenger seat, talking to your kids in the back seat,” Korda said.

Bowers said the law does allow for the use of hands-free devices, including headphones or earpieces, and the law itself does allow for the use of GPS services.

The law will go into effect Monday, with a minimum $50 fine for the first offender. Third-time offenders or more will receive $100 fines, double that for violations that occur in school zones or where workers are present.

Church News

Dwayne Calhoun retires as Hampton Christian minister

Church News

Why should we forgive one another?

Local news

Prep for adventure: Field season  now open at Gray Fossil Site

Local news

Tennessee voters have favorable opinion of state economy, not U.S. economy

Local news

Local judge, kindergarten teacher, and realtor compete for Dancing with the Tri-Cities Stars

Local news

Elizabethton Police seek public’s help in theft investigation

Local news

Lakeside Concert Series lineup announced

Local news

Roan Mountain State Park weekend activities

Local news

ETSU, Walters State offer transfer pathway for computing students

Local news

Roan Mountain Summer Concert series features area musicians

Local news

Watauga Genealogists will  meet June 4 at JC Library

Local news

TWRA Memorial Day weekend boating report

Local news

UETHDA announces energy assistance outreach for June

Local news

SAHC announces new South Yellow Mountain Preserve

Community

Isaac Whitehead Family plans reunion June 2

Arrests

Johnson City man arrested for aggravated assault at local hotel

Local news

Tennessee to offer free diapers through Medicaid, CoverKids

Local news

Decoration Day planned for June 8 at Lyons Cemetery

Local news

Shell Family Reunion planned Saturday

Local news

Memorial Day ceremony honors Carter Countians killed in military conflicts

Arrests

Johnson City man arrested for second-degree murder in stabbing incident

Local news

Memorial Day weekend sees slight drop in Tennessee gas prices despite high travel volume

Local news

Northeast Community Credit Union selects 2024 William L. Armstrong Scholarship recipients

Local news

Elizabethton student receives prestigious Distinguished Tennessean Scholarship