No phones in school zones

Friday, January 12, 2018
John Cowell Jr. directs traffic in Cornersville on a cold windy afternoon. Crossing guards across the state should have one less concern after a state law banning the use of cell phones in active school zones went into effect on January 1.
Tribune photo by Erin Morris

The state wants you to concentrate on the road instead of your conversation when in a school zone.

While it is already illegal to text and drive, state lawmakers have officially banned cellphones in active school zones. School zones differ in each county, but typically start at 7-8:45 a.m. and 2:15-4 p.m.

The law makes it a Class C misdemeanor which drivers can face up to a $50 fine for knowingly driving through an active school zone while using a hand-held device. This means no phone calls allowed, unless it’s a hands free device. For any driver under the age of 18, it is illegal to be using a cellphone or a hands-free device. This law happens to be in effect in at least 10 other states already.

Parents and educators are frustrated and very concerned about the safety of the students. It’s no surprise distracted drivers are a growing problem in Tennessee according to most insurance claims.

“It would be nice to see less people be on their phones and pay attention to the road. I think it will definitely help with traffic in the zones,” said one parent picking up their child at Cornersville Elementary School.

Cornersville’s 60-year-old crossing guard John Cowell Jr. believes that Marshall County does not have “that big of a problem.” However, he often sees drivers swerve when he directs traffic for various reasons.

“What’s the point of the law if people aren’t getting caught?” he said. “People think I have no right out here, because I’m just a crossing guard.”

He explained that a lot of people disregard him anyway due to other distractions, but cellphones seem to be the most common.

“My niece thinks I have the most dangerous job, and I can see why,” Cowell said.