Michael Van Dyke

Michael Van Dyke

Law enforcement agencies in Robertson County have started to ramp up their efforts in enforcing the state’s new “hands-free” cellphone law after a few weeks of warning drivers.

The law, which took effect July 1, makes it illegal for drivers to hold a cellphone or mobile device with any part of their body, write, send or read text messages and reach for a cellphone. Drivers are allowed to use an earpiece, headphone device or wrist-worn device to make and receive phone calls.

“We understand that operating a cell phone while driving has been a habit for many years, and it is a hard habit to break. One of the leading contributing factors to traffic crashes is distracted driving. By having the Hands-Free law, we hope to see results in the reduction of crashes, and having safer roads for our citizens,” Robertson County Sheriff Michael Van Dyke said.

Robertson County, Springfield, Greenbrier and White House police departments spent several weeks after the initial law was passed focusing on educating the public. At this point, they have each began to issue citations for breaking this law.

“We’re transitioning into the enforcement part of it because everybody should be pretty well educated,” Greenbrier Police Lt. Todd Dorris said.

Dorris said they noticed the most issues with cell phone usage in school zones and young adult drivers, but usage has dropped significantly due to the highway patrols.

In 2018, there were more than 24,600 crashes involving a distracted driver in Tennessee, according to the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security.

“There’s no question that distracted driving has been the contributing factor in the majority of our accidents, for sure,” White House Police Chief Pat Brady said.

Violation of the law will be a Class C misdemeanor and considered a moving traffic violation. Fines include: $50 for first-time offense, $100 for third-time offense or more or when violation results in a car crash and $200 when violation occurs in a work zone or a school zone.

“We’re hopeful that we’ll see a significant decrease in our accidents,” Brady said. “That is the ultimate goal - to save lives and prevent injuries.”

Reporter Xavier Smith contributed to this story.

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