cell phone

    A new Tennessee law that bans handheld cell phone use while driving goes into effect next month. Effective July 1st, it will be illegal to use any cellular device by holding it, or by supporting it with any part of your body while operating a motor vehicle upon any roadway. This does not limit the use of "hands-free" or Bluetooth devices, as long as the phone is not being held or supported. Drivers caught in violation of the law could face a $100 fine. The citation increases to a $200 fine if the violation results in an accident.

   AAA estimates using a cell phone while driving, hands-free or not, raises the chance of crashing by four times. "What we want people to remember is that hands-free doesn't necessarily mean risk-free. When you're looking at your own driving behavior, this is a great step towards reducing those distractions in the car," said Megan Cooper with AAA.

   "They've actually found that even once that distraction ends your brain can still stay distracted. For example, if you're using voice to text or Siri or anything like that, once you're done, your brain can actually stay distracted for up to 27 seconds," added Cooper.

   More than a dozen other states have implemented laws similar to Tennessee's new law including California, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington and West Virginia.

   The Tennessee Highway Safety office said awareness is key, and they are making education campaigns with local police departments a major priority ahead of the transition.

    Just as with texting law exemptions, law enforcement and emergency service workers are exempt from the new law as long as job-related messages or calls are being made.

    Currently in Tennessee, all cell phone using while driving is banned for teen drivers, as well as school bus drivers.

   AAA has suggestions for drivers on avoiding distractions:

-Turn off your phone or switch it to silent mode before getting in the car. If you need to make a call, pull over to a safe area.

-Set up a message to tell callers you are driving and you'll get back to them as soon as possible.

-Shave or apply makeup before getting in the car.

-Ask a passenger to make calls for you.

-Don't text, surf the web, or read emails while driving.

-If you're traveling, know the state and local laws before getting in the car.

-Program your GPS before driving.

-Always secure your pets before you start driving.

-Pull over to a safe spot to address situations with your kids in the car.

-Refrain from smoking, eating, drinking or any activity taking your hands, mind or eyes off the road.