PIGEON FORGE, Tenn. (WATE) – This Fourth of July also marks the fourth day of Tennessee’s hands-free law. Since Monday, it’s been illegal to hold a cell phone while driving in the Volunteer State or to send a text or snap a photo with your phone or mobile defense.
A first offense carries a fine of $50, and a third offense goes up to $100.
It can be challenging to get used to the change, especially when you’re tasked with enforcing it. Pigeon Forge Patrol Officer Candace Teaster said, so far, she sees most drivers are obeying the new rule.
“It’s going to take some time for people to get used to it, but it is intended for safety purposes for everybody on the roadways,” she added.
Pigeon Forge has thousands of out-of-state tourists most weekends. Teaster takes that into consideration when enforcing the new law.
“Their state laws may be different from what our state laws are. So, it’s important to get them on board, as well, just to keep people informed,” she said.
It’s up to the officer to write you a ticket. Teaster said she is focused on educating the public rather than writing citations at the moment, but warned the grace period has a time limit.
“There’s a point where people have to realize, it’s just like any other law out here. You have to abide by them to be on the roadway. Driving is a privilege. We kind of get away from that sometimes, but in order to drive we have to abide by the laws and all the traffic laws,” Teaster said.
Pigeon Forge averages around two car accidents every day. Teaster believes a large percentage of that statistic is attributed to distracted driving. She said the new rule is for the driver’s safety and for the safety of everyone else on the road with them.
“Using your cell phone, having it in your hands, looking at it while you’re trying to drive, that is distracted driving,” she said.
You’re considered exempt from the hands-free law if you’re using your phone to contact first responders in a genuine emergency. There are other exceptions to the new law as well, to learn more about those click here.