HANDS FREE: Ride-along with Elizabethton police as they enforce Tennessee’s new law


As of Monday, July 1, drivers who hold a cellphone while driving in Tennessee are breaking the law, because it is now illegal to hold a cellphone while driving.

This includes reading or writing a text, along with recording video while driving.

It is a habit that many drivers will have to break as soon as possible, or else they could face some hefty fines if caught.

Elizabethton Police allowed News Channel 11 to ride alongside Corporal James Stevens on the day of the new law.

Many of the drivers who were stopped claimed they did not know about the new law.

Corporal Stevens speaking with a driver: “I’m Corporal Stevens with the Elizabethon Police Department. Do you have any idea why I stopped you today?
Driver 1: “Yeah, it just hit me. I forgot they put that new law in effect today.”

As the new hands free Tennessee law went into effect, the Elizabethon Police Department, as well as other Tennessee law enforcement agencies went on high-alert.

“One of our struggles when enforcing something like that, try to confirm what you’re seeing and then a lot of times finding the area to turn around safely, and then catch up to the vehicle,” Corporal James Stevens explained.

However, the department did not use the day to issue tickets.

Corporal Stevens: “Hello ma’am, I’m Corporal Stevens with the Elizabethton Police Department. Do you have any idea why I stopped you today?”
Driver 2: “Not really.”
Corporal Stevens: July 1st of this year, Tennessee adapted the hands free law. You can’t use your cellular phone, okay? It’s gotta be hands free.
Driver 2: I didn’t know I’m sorry.

They hoped to use these first few days to educate drivers.

Elizabethton Police Department Chief Jason Shaw, “Everybody’s really going to have to change their habits of using their phones in the vehicle. Hopefully by doing that, we can make a positive change to make the roads way safer.”

Chief Shaw said these habits should turn into positive change on the roads.

“This new law will be easier to enforce. You got the phone in your hand while you’re driving, it violates the law,” Chief Shaw said. “It’s something to get used to. I’ve been making myself personally get used to. Keep it with your pocket, Bluetooth device, or have the phone connected to your Bluetooth device on your car.”

According to data from “Tennessee Distracted Driver Traffic Crashes”, Carter County had 60 crashes in 2018. See how your county did in distracted driving accidents in 2018.

Corporal Stevens said, “Anytime you have someone that leaves the roadway or hits the back of a vehicle, that’s always a question in your mind. You can ask them and see what kind of response you get.”

Drivers who are caught violating the hands free law could be fined $50 for a first offense and up to $100 for a second offense. One thing to note is these will also be added to the violator’s personal driving record.

The hands free bill was just one of many laws that took effect in both Tennessee and Virginia, on July 1.

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