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Tennessee Highway Patrol looks to put cellphone usage on hold
THP education sting.jpg
Tennessee Highway Patrol and Tennessee Department of Transportation partnered this week to raise awareness about the state’s new ban on using cellphones while driving. Pictured, from left, are TDOT employee Tyler Bouldin and THP troopers Rodney Whiles, Joseph Vanbommel and Ben Cannon.

A ban on cellphone use while driving has been in effect over a month and the Tennessee Highway Patrol is helping get the word out in Warren County.

On Monday, THP coordinated with Tennessee Department of Transportation to catch motorists in the act of distracted driving on Nashville Highway. The state’s new distracted driving law, which went into effect July 1, makes it illegal to hold a cellphone while driving.

“One state trooper sat in a TDOT truck on Nashville Highway watching for offenders,” said state trooper Sgt. Kevin Ballew. “If one was spotted, they radioed ahead and the vehicle was stopped. Our goal was to focus on education. It’s not always about enforcement.”

THP is using July and August as a teaching period, although citations and fines could still be issued. 

“Cellphones are a distraction,” said Ballew. “We hope people put the phone down and focus on driving. Hopefully, this new law and increased enforcement will lead to a reduction in injury and fatal crashes in Tennessee. This is about saving lives.”

Tennessee is the 19th state to implement this type of ban, which prohibits drivers from holding or physically supporting a phone while driving – unless they are using an earpiece, headphone device, or device worn on a wrist to conduct a voice-based communication.

The Hands Free Tennessee campaign said that in 2018, there were more than 24,600 crashes involving a distracted driver in Tennessee.