Memphis City Council to again take on Hands Free Law and allow for MPD enforcement

Local News

MEMPHIS, Tenn. ( – Tennessee drivers have been banned from holding a cell phone while driving since July, but in Memphis, police still aren’t able to enforce the law. That could soon change.

Next week, the Memphis City Council will consider whether to change city rules to comply with the law. If the council approves the ordinance in the weeks ahead, Memphis Police would be able to write $50 tickets for those busted on city roads and highways.

It’s been so long since the cell phone state law took effect, that voters have elected six new Memphis City Council members.

Memphis drivers told us little surprises them these days about what they see out on the roads.

“I probably see maybe 50% of the drivers are on their cell phones,” Molly Dagastino said.

“With that phone, it’s a big distraction,” Toni Crutchfield said.

Driving while holding a cell phone is against the law in Tennessee, but it’s not enforceable yet by MPD, until the city council changes its own ordinance. Council members haven’t yet done so, nearly eight months after the state law took effect.

“I think we should start looking into this right now, because it has been sometime and I think you know you have a new body, the body is engaged,” Memphis City Council JB Smiley, Jr. said.

Smiley, Jr. is one of six new Memphis City Council members and on the council’s public safety committee, which is scheduled to take up the Hands Free Law Tuesday.

“The ultimate goal, which is to make the roadway safe, is a very important goal and I think this will serve as a deterrent,” Smiley, Jr. said.

Memphis drivers Friday wondered why it’s taking so long or why the previous city council didn’t already vote to allow Memphis Police to write tickets enforcing the Hands Free Law.

“Memphis is a great city but it would help to get up with the times,” Dagastino said.

“They really need to enforce that law, you know, because it’s just one of those things to protect people,” Crutchfield said.

The Memphis Police director wasn’t available Friday for comment. It should be noted, Memphis Police officers can still write tickets for other forms of distracted driving. Troopers with the Tennessee Highway Patrol can also write tickets for the Hands Free Law on state roads in Memphis.

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