School zone cellphone ban takes effect

Published 3:29 pm Monday, August 4, 2014

As school resumes this week throughout Washington Parish, motorists will need to be aware of a new law that requires them to put down their cellphone while traveling through a school zone.

The law went into effect Friday and was one of numerous laws and amendments passed during the 2014 Louisiana Legislative Session.

Under the new law, motorists will not be allowed to use their cellphone or any other wireless communication device while driving through a school zone during posted hours.

Local school zone hours generally run 7-9 a.m. and 2-4 p.m. each weekday that school is in session.

Activities covered under the ban include using a cellular or wireless device to make a voice call; reading, accessing or posting information to a social media site; and writing, sending or reading text messages.

The ban does not apply if the cellphone is being used in hands-free manner, Franklinton Police Department Capt. Randall Penton said.

The law also allows for the use of a wireless device in school zones if it is being used to report an emergency or if it is being accessed while the car is lawfully parked.

Law enforcement agencies throughout the parish will be checking to make sure motorists adhere to the cellphone ban, and penalties are in place for those who violate the law.

The fine is $175 for a first violation of the school zone ban, with a fine of up to $500 to be levied for subsequent violations. Fines can be increased if a crash occurs at the time of the violation.

If motorists must talk on a cellphone while driving, Penton advises that they utilize their vehicle’s hands-free system or put their phone in speakerphone mode and place it above their sun visor.

Bogalusa Police Chief Joe Culpepper said the new law is intended make motorists more alert and attentive while operating a vehicle.

“I think whatever it takes to make people pay attention to their driving and their surroundings, we need to do it,” he said.