Don Bandy

Bandy

Gallatin police gave mostly warnings when pulling over drivers who were not following the new hands-free cellphone law last month.

The statewide law, which took effect July 1, makes it illegal for anyone to hold or reach for a cellphone or mobile device or send or read any text-based communication while driving. However, the use of an earpiece, headphones or wrist-worn device to make and receive phone calls is allowed.

In Gallatin, officers gave 20 warnings and four citations to drivers last month who used a cellphone while behind the wheel, according to data from the Gallatin Police Department.

Additionally, there were 16 citations and three warnings given for texting while driving, which was already illegal in Tennessee prior to July 1.

“We’re trying to let people grow into the (new) law if you will,” Gallatin Police Chief Bandy said. “It’s all about attentive driving and making sure you’re paying attention. The main part is keeping your eyes on the road.”

According to the Sumner County Sheriff’s Office, deputies gave eight citations for cellphone use while driving in July.

A violation of the new hands-free cellphone law is a Class C misdemeanor and considered a moving traffic violation. Fines include $50 for a first-time offense, $100 for third-time offense or more when the violation results in a wreck and $200 when the violation occurs in a work or school zone.

In 2018, more than 24,600 crashes statewide involved a distracted driver, according to the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security.

“No message or phone call is that important,” Bandy said. “We want people to be careful, attentive, watch their surroundings and pay attention to what they’re doing on the road.”

Xavier Smith contributed to this report.

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