Instead of a mic drop last Thursday on the first day of school in Wilson County, most drivers in Mt. Juliet dropped their cell phones while driving.
Mt. Juliet Police Chief James Hambrick said it was remarkable that not one citation was issued on the first day of school. A law preventing drivers from using or holding their cell phones while driving went into effect July 1.
However, three warnings were given as Mt. Juliet police officers saturated the roads to ensure there were no distracted drivers.
According to Mt. Juliet police records, since July 1, 12 citations were issued in the city limits.
According to the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security, in 2018 there were more than 24,600 crashes in Tennessee related to distracted drivers. Tennessee has the highest rate of distracted driving deaths in the nation.
In Wilson County, from 2009 to 2019 there were 4,780 distracted driving cases.
Hambrick said it seems those driving in Mt. Juliet get the picture.
“You would be surprised,” he said. “You would think the majority of violators would be kids texting each other, but we’ve found it’s the older adults who use their phone driving, more often.
“As always, once something like this is first implemented people adhere, but after a while it becomes commonplace and it’s business as usual and now we are seeing more violators.”
Hambrick said it’s always been his goal to reduce the number of crashes each year.
“We accomplished that last year, but now we are seeing more and more rear-end collisions. People get on their phones and look up and all of a sudden they’ve rear ended the driver in front of them,” he said.
According to the law, a driver is permitted to use an earpiece, headphone device or a device worn on a wrist to conduct phone-based communication.
“It’s about diligence and patience,” Hambrick said. “It’s about being aware while driving. Young people don’t know what it is like to not have a phone in their hand. People are so dependent on their phone they will leave their kids, but not their phone.”
Picking up and using the phone while stopped at a traffic light is not allowed either. Hambrick said people are supposed to pull completely off the road and stop to use their cell phone.
Since there are hundreds of students on the road, Hambrick said MJPD will conduct a blast of public service announcements reminding drivers of the new law and the consequences of breaking it.
“It’s about trying to save lives and injuries,” he said. “And, it’s a law and it will be enforced.”