THP begins to crack down on violators of hands-free law

Weekend Extra

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Middle Tennessee law enforcement is cracking down on Tennessee’s new hands-free law.

The law aims to reduce distracted driving by making it illegal to hold a cellphone behind the wheel.

Officials from the Tennessee Highway Patrol told News 2, they gave drivers time to adjust, handing out warnings to educate the public.

“I think the grace period is over. People have had plenty of time to adapt, and we’ve been lenient. So, now it’s time to go to work,” said Lieutenant Charlie Caplinger.

Now almost two months into the new law, officials said violators caught will be issued a citation.

This change in approach comes ahead of the Labor Day weekend.

A News 2 crew rode along with THP troopers and Metro police as they conducted “Operation Roundabout.”

“You’ve been with us for two rounds now, and you’ve seen the violations that are occurring. It’s happening over and over and over again,” said Lt. Caplinger.

The goal was to catch distracted drivers along the downtown loop, while also increasing awareness among the public.

Lt. Caplinger said he started the day hoping to see a change in driver behavior.

“We were really kind of disappointed in today because we were hoping we would see a decrease in our citations,” said Lt. Caplinger. “We were hoping people would be more compliant with the new law. But apparently they’re not.”

Since July 1, THP has issued 1,100 hands-free citations.

Even with amped up enforcement, THP’s message to drivers stays the same.

“Don’t answer the phone. Simply drive,” said Lt. Caplinger. “Put your phone on vibrate and drive.”

Officials said they handed out 180 hands-free citations in the recent operation and 90 seatbelt violations.

Fines begin at $50.

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