Put down the phone in the car for the safety of everyone

With schools back in session, Tech students back on campus and Tennesseans starting to become active again, traffic in Cookeville is increasing. Those of us who were out and about during the lockdowns are trying to get used the everyone else on the roadways again.

We ask that as we get used to going places again, everyone be patient. Remember, not everyone has been driving in Cookeville the past six months. New students at Tech don’t know lanes end abruptly. They don’t know our usual traffic patterns.

But, more importantly, we’ve noticed something else that’s increasing like the traffic.

The use of cell phones while driving.

More than a year ago, a law took effect in Tennessee requiring use of a hands-free device while talking on the phone and driving. Texting while driving is also illegal. It took a little while, but it seemed by the end of last year, most drivers got the message and we didn’t see a tremendous amount of phone use while driving.

But it seems that in the six months since the COVID-19 pandemic hit, drivers have forgotten the law. It is still illegal to text while driving. It is still illegal to hold your phone in your hand, whether to your ear or using the speakerphone, while driving.

We have observed many drivers ignoring the law. It may be that they have forgotten. It may be they never knew. Or it may be that they think the law doesn’t apply to them.

A quick message — If you’re driving, the law applies to you.

And although it appears to be mostly the younger crowd on their phones while driving, we’ve seen it in all ages.

So we have some recommendations.

First, put your phone down. Don’t talk on the phone while you’re driving. No conversation is worth a life.

Second, we encourage the law enforcement officers in our area to enforce the law. And a warning is not sufficient. Most people learn the lesson better and quicker when there’s money involved.

Third, we encourage parents and grandparents to remind their young drivers that putting the phone down is not a suggestion. It’s the law.

To borrow a phrase from the state’s seat belt campaign many years ago, “The life you save may be your own.”

-The Cookeville Herald-Citizen