BRISTOL/JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. — Tennessee’s drivers are being warned about a new law that will ban handheld devices on the road for drivers. The law will go into effect on July 1.
Tennessee Highway Patrol’s Fall Branch Division, which includes the Tri-Cities, posted to Twitter that troopers will be looking for anyone breaking that law.
News Channel 11’s Pheben Kassahun spoke with driving school instructor Susan Walling who said she is aware of the issue, but more must be done than creating this law to discourage driving while using a handheld device.
“We think we can focus on many things at one time and I discuss that. I discuss the rain and its function in the class,” Susan Walling, owner of Driving Training Inc. said.
Walling has taught drivers education for 11 and a half years. She stresses the importance of putting your phone down while behind the wheel, to her students constantly.
“My question is that how are we going to enforce it,” Walling said. “The fine is not hefty enough.”
With many of her students having cellphones since they were in grade school, she said this law may be harder to enforce.
“I always ask the first class how old were you when you got your first cellphone? And I had an 8-year-old in the class on Monday night. He’s 15 now, but he was 8 years old when he got his first cellphone,” Walling said.
Lieutenant Becky West of the Johnson City Police Department explained, statistically, the city’s accident rate is increasing because of driving while using a phone.
“Cellphone play a big part in crashes and distracted driving, and I think the main reason we’re having this change in the law is to cut down on car wrecks,” Lt. West said.
The law will be heavily enforced in Johnson City, she said.
“You don’t have to have something else to happen like run a stop sign or expired type before we enforce that this will be a primary offense. We’ll enforce it by investigations of car wrecks or if we’re on patrol, and we visually see somebody using a handheld mobile device we will stop them,” Lt. West explained.
Walling said, while the law is good, a bigger effort is needed to get drivers to put down the phone.
“It’s parents, legislation, and the driving school that all work together to help the teens stay safe. I can only do so much,” Walling said.
Violators of this new law could face a $100 fine and a $200 fine if a crash is involved.