The Murfreesboro Police Department, the Rutherford County Sheriff’s Department and the Tennessee Highway Patrol teamed up to issue 86 citations in school zones, including 38 when the zone safety lights were flashing, according to a news release from Sheriff’s Department spokeswoman Lisa Marchesoni.
The Rutherford County Traffic Safety Task Force sponsored the joint Operation School Zone Safety on Friday, March 26. The law enforcement officers were posted in school zones to look for driving violations like speeding, lack of seatbelts and child restraints, and cell phone use.
During the times when the school safety lights were flashing, officers issued 21 citations for speeding, eight for cell-phone use, four for lack of insurance, four for failing to wear seatbelts and one for driving without a license, according Murfreesboro Police Sgt. Greg Walker.
A sheriff’s deputy issued one warning for texting and driving as well, according to the news release.
MPD officers and THP troopers remained in the area while school was in session to watch for distracted driving. During that three- and half-hour period, 48 more drivers were cited for violating the “Hands Free” law, according to the news release.
Additional citations were issued for simple possession of marijuana, violation of registration law, failing to have insurance and failing to wear a seatbelt. Charges for DUI were also included.
Tennessee’s “Hands Free’’ law, which went into effect in July 2019, prohibits drivers from hand-held use of cell phones to reduce distractions. This includes writing, sending and reading text messages in addition to watching or recording videos.
A first-time offense will be met with a $50 ticket. Three or more violations will be met with a $100 ticket. A hands-free violation that occurs in a school zone with flashers in use will result in a $200 ticket.
MPD Capt. Cary Gensemer emphasized the importance of being alert and cautious while traveling through school zones.
The safety of children is a top concern for the RCTSTF, according to Walker.
“Hopefully the enforcement actions that took place on (March 26) will be a good reminder for everyone to stay buckled up, obey the speed limit, stay off the phone and stay focused on the road,” Walker said in the news release.