...Days into the launch of a new life-changing state law — Public Chapter No. 412 — we hope Cleveland and Bradley County motorists are paying attention.

If not, chances are good your wallets today are significantly lighter. Not to put too fine a point on it, but $50 to $200 lighter. Some of the less fortunate might even have racked up three points on your violator’s driving record.

Some call it the “hands-free” law; others know it as “put down the cellphone” law when sitting behind the steering wheel of a moving vehicle.

By any name, its fragrance likely is considered not-so-sweet by drivers who are caught in the act. But it’s now the law of land — at least, in Tennessee — and it’s a good law. Though we don’t wish ill of violators, we do support the work of local law enforcement officers who will be saving lives by upholding the state decree.

As for the new mandate that took effect July 1, here’s the gist: Under the law, violation is now a Class C misdemeanor and is considered a moving traffic violation.

Fines for these violations include:

—$50 for a first-time offense.

—$100 for a third-time offense, or higher; and, if the violation results in a vehicular accident.

—$200 for a violation that occurs inside a work zone while workers are present; or, if the violation occurs in a marked school zone while flashers are in operation.

It’s this simple: The new law does not permit drivers to operate a motor vehicle while holding or supporting a cellphone or mobile device with any part of his/her body.

Obviously, there are exceptions . some of them common-sense applications to an otherwise excellent legislation.

For instance:

—Drivers are permitted to use an earpiece, headphone device or device worn on a wrist to conduct voice-based communication. Drivers may use one button on a cellphone or mobile device to initiate or terminate voice communication.

—Drivers are allowed to use a cellphone or other wireless telecommunications device to communicate with law enforcement agencies, medical providers, fire departments or other emergency service agencies while driving a motor vehicle, if the use is necessitated by a bona fide emergency.

For a full understanding of other exceptions under the Hands-Free Law, we recommend visiting https://handsfreetn.com/ But, don’t do it while you’re driving.

Locally, Bradley County Sheriff Steve Lawson and Chief of Police Mark Gibson have primed their patrol units to uphold these new driving standards.

They should . not just because it’s the law, but because it’s all about public safety and saving lives.

We agree with Lawson’s assessment. In a front-page story in our newspaper only days before the law’s effective date, the sheriff told us, “I am thrilled the Legislature passed this law in an effort to keep people safe on the roads. This isn’t a problem we only see in young drivers; we see this as a problem with drivers of all ages, and it has gotten out of control.”

We could have said it better. We commend the Bradley County sheriff for his candor.

To local motorists, we urge: Take the new Hands-Free Law seriously. In truth, it is state legislation that is long, long overdue.

So, unless you’re just chewing at the bit to hand over some of your hard-earned money, we recommend putting that cellphone down and leaving it alone; at least, until you arrive at your destination or you find a safe spot to park on the road shoulder.

It’s not just your life. It’s everybody’s life who shares the road.

-Cleveland Daily Banner