Texas Expands Phone-Free Zones to Further Cut Use Around Schools

If you didn't know better, you'd think people were physically connected to their cell phones. And that gets dangerous behind the wheel.

Texas banned the used of hand-held phones in school zones back in 2009, a way to keep drivers alert while kids are walking to school.

A new law in effect since the beginning of the month expands those zones.

Kari Shelton drops her 5-year-old daughter Cameron off at Spring Valley Elementary in Hewitt. She's a big fan of the cell-phone free zones around schools. 

"It allows a safer zone for children to be dropped off," she said, "and people aren't as distracted, I think."

And since 2009 when the law was introduced, Hewitt cops have been bored looking for people to ticket.

"We probably haven't written but maybe a handful," said Officer Joseph Jones of the Hewitt PD.

The department wrote just 25 of them since last August; a year earlier, 24; the year before that, just 21.

We rode along with Officer Jones Thursday morning as kids were headed to school. Frankly, we got lucky to see a different officer write a cell phone ticket toward the end of the morning.

"Us being out there and being seen like we are in the school zones," Jones said, "I think, is deterring a lot of people."

They see a lot of a move many of us have done -- looking down at your phone in your lap, then back up, back down, back up. If you're wondering, you're not fooling the police.

Then traffic cops started noticing something a little weird, and just as dangerous: parents waiting until they were in the school parking lot to make a call.

"People are on them all the time now," said Nikki Odermann, dropping off her two kids and two of a neighbor's kids at Spring Valley Thursday. "I think that it's just habit nowadays."

So the new zones include school property.

It's a step in the right direction for Kari, a high school teacher at Midway.

"Hopefully at the elementary level where kids are smaller and younger and walking to school it's a little safer," she said.

Even more so if drivers go hands-free, or, better yet, just hang up and drive.

Hewitt isn't the only department in central Texas not issuing many citations.

Waco cops have written just 15 in the last year. Temple PD has given 40, and in Killeen, 84.


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