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Cell phone use banned in Louisiana school zones

A Vidalia Lower Elementary parent, who didn’t want to be identified, uses a phone in the car while waiting for students to be let out after school. Signs were posted at all Concordia Parish Schools prohibiting cellphone usage in designated school zones during certain times of the day. (Sam Gause / The Natchez Democrat)
A Vidalia Lower Elementary parent, who didn’t want to be identified, uses a phone in the car while waiting for students to be let out after school. Signs were posted at all Concordia Parish Schools prohibiting cellphone usage in designated school zones during certain times of the day. (Sam Gause / The Natchez Democrat)

VIDALIA New state laws prohibiting cell phone use in school zones and banning smoking within 200 feet of schools went into effect this week.

“We hadn’t really had any issues or complaints about cell phone use in school drop-off lines, but it’s a safety thing at the end of the day,” Concordia Parish Schools Superintendent Paul Nelson said. “The fact is if you’re talking on the cell phone and not paying attention, especially around the lower elementary schools where the kids are so small and just getting into the routine of getting out of the car by themselves, it’s a safety issue.”

The law does not apply to those using a hands-free wireless device.

The signs posted at Concordia Parish schools came from Louisiana Act 410. (Sam Gause / The Natchez Democrat)
The signs posted at Concordia Parish schools came from Louisiana Act 410. (Sam Gause / The Natchez Democrat)

Several exceptions are listed in the act, which technically went into effect Aug. 1 but required districts post clear signage to indicate the enforcement.

Someone using a phone to report a traffic accident or crime, for example, would not be fined.

The law also doesn’t apply to those who are lawfully parked in the designated school zones.

Those violating the new law will be fined up to $175 the first offense and $500 for any subsequent offenses. If a driver is in an accident while violating the law, the fine can be doubled.

Vidalia Police Chief Arthur Lewis said the department already increased its patrols of school zones earlier this month when school started.

“This will just be one more thing we’ll be on the lookout for,” Lewis said. “We’ve been looking for speeding, stop sign violations and all that, so this is one more thing.”

Lewis said the law would only help protect the children at parish schools.

“This is just another thing that will reinforce the need of drivers to be safe in school zones,” Lewis said. “Our citizens need to always be on the lookout for students during in those certain areas.”

Another law that will be enforced in the parish requires that residents who are smoking stay at least 200 feet away from the entrances, exits or outdoor areas of any public or private elementary or secondary school.

Nelson said signs were already posted outside of all the main school buildings in the parish from a previous state law, but the new law includes other buildings on campus, such as the football stadiums or gyms.

Nelson said signs were posted at those locations this week.

“You can’t just walk outside the gate of a game and smoke, now you have to be at least 200 feet away from the entrance,” Nelson said. “That’s always something you hear people talk about because they don’t want their kids walking through the smoke of someone standing outside.”

Those violating the law can be fined $25 on the first offense, with a $50 fine for the second offense and a $100 fine for the third offense.

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