Police officers, emergency calls exempt from TN hands-free cell phone law

Local News

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – Tennessee’s new hands-free cell phone law took effect Monday, but there are exemptions.

Tennessee has made it illegal to hold a phone, send a text or take a picture while driving.

Related: THP troopers: ‘Be prepared and put phone down before new law starts’

However, the law does not apply to certain people while working:

  • Law enforcement officers
  • Campus police and public safety officers
  • Emergency first responders
  • Firefighters, including volunteer firefighters
  • Paramedics
  • Utility service employees or contractors

“We get a lot of information through our phones, especially if it’s an active situation. We have a laptop computer in the vehicles and we get dispatched through those and the calls are updated through those, but if you’re responding to a certain type of situation, whether it be a shooting or any number of things, you need that real-time data,” said Lt. Don Boshears with Tennessee Highway Patrol. “You need that real-time information where you can be preparing while you’re en route to that call on what your action is going to be when you get there and that’s why it’s important.”

Another exemption is if you’re calling first responders in the case of a genuine emergency.

Boshears says during their annual in-service training, troopers receive instruction on emergency vehicle operation.

“We’re no different than anybody else. We’ve instructed our troopers if you need to use it for your job that’s fine, but for regular conversations, we need to be hands-free just like everybody else.”

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