Police enforce ban on cell phone use while driving in school zone

By Amanda Hanson - bio | email feedback

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - Come September 1st, a new law takes effect that will require drivers to hang up in a school zone. The law was passed by the legislature last February. The question is, will the law really keep people from doing it.

There are so many laws already involving cell phone devices. Region 8 News spoke with a resource officer with one school in the area, who was thrilled about the law finally taking effect, and says the biggest thing is get the word out.

"We see it probably one out four cars and that's me being conservative," said Jamie Carter, who works for the Craighead County Sheriff's Department and Resource Officer with the Westside School District.

Carter says it's something he sees far too often. From parents and even students, who by Arkansas state law are not allowed to be driving while on a phone period.

The new law will restrict people from being on any type of hand held device while driving in a work or school zone with children present. Now, that includes school property. Carter says it's not only to protect the safety of the children, but officers directing traffic. "This is my sixth school year as the S.R.O here and we've had five to six incidents where we've been nearly run over here in the highway by motorist. Probably four out of those five or six were on the cell phone when those incident occurred," said Carter.

The thing is, is this something officers will be able to realistically enforce. "It's nearly impossible for me to make a traffic stop when I'm standing on the highway on foot to enforce this law. So I would definitely need some help. But then you have two to three hundred vehicles on the highway at one time, where are you going to make a traffic stop?" said Carter.

The violation would be a secondary offense. So unless you are speeding or not wearing a seat belt, officers don't have much authority. And while it's a challenge, Carter says it is a starting point. "If you'll remember the seat belt law. It was a secondary offense and after a period of time it became a primary offense. So we can only hope that the legislature will see the need for this and as people get accustom to it, it will become a primary offense, where we can actually do something about it when they pass us," said Carter.

There are a few exceptions to the law. Parents, if there's an accident or you waiting in line to pick up and can't find your child, you would not be in violation. But if you do get pulled over and are hanging on the phone, you could end up with a 50 dollar fine.

Copyright 2011 KAIT. All rights reserved.