Police are hoping to make roads in or near school zones safer for the upcoming school year.
Next week, The Johnson City Police Department will launch a “Hands Free Campaign”, in an effort to make drivers aware of the consequences of violating the hands free law especially in school zones.
Since the law went into effect on July 1, the JCPD has written 56 citations, to violators of the hands free law.
The department hopes this campaign will deter drivers from picking up their phone especially when passing through a school zone.
In a matter of weeks, these roads will see an increase of drivers.
“Patricularly our real high traffic areas are Science Hill High School, on John Exum there. In the beginning of the year, I mean we’ve got 300 students. It’s a lot of traffic, in addition to the morning traffic,” Johnson City Schools supervisor of school safety and mental health, Dr. Greg Wallace said.
School starts Monday, August 5, and the Johnson City Police Department is stressing focusing on the road.
“It’s hand free for everyone,” Johnson City Police Department Sgt. Lorrie Goff said.
Sergeant Lorrie Goff with the JCPD said if caught, violators are looking at a $200 fine.
“And you don’t go to our traffic court, you actually have go to sessions court,” Sgt. Goff said.
According to a study by the University of Utah, using a cell phone while driving is equivalent to having a blood alcohol content level of .08, which is considered a DUI in the state of Tennessee.
“It’s very serious. We had a 166 accidents with a one-year period, within one-quarter of a mile of our schools. That’s a lot of accidents,” Sgt. Goff said.
Thirty-seven percent of those crashes happened near Science Hill High School.
Dr. Wallace said, “The vast majority is due to distractive driving for one reason or another.”
Dr. Greg Wallace is the supervisor of school safety and mental health for Johnson City Schools.
“I’ve seen people reading the paper. I’ve seen people on their cell phones, fiddling with the radio, fiddling with music, fussing with students in the back of the car,” Dr. Wallace said.
All he asks is for drivers to pay attention.
“I think it’s one of those things that you can get away with for five seconds or eight seconds but is it really worth significant damage to your vehicle, a speeding ticket or worst case scenario, injury to somebody,” Dr. Wallace said.
The campaign kicks of next Monday, July 29 and runs through August 2nd.