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Cell phones in school zones

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Police prepare for school zones Police prepare for school zones
BOSSIER CITY, La. -

Drivers in Bossier City may have noticed one sign of the back to school season: flashing school zone lights.

Wednesday's lights were only a test run designed to get drivers prepared for the lower speeds, but police say fast drivers are only one problem when it comes to school zone safety.

"You've got hundreds of kids crossing the street at any given time," Bossier City Police Cpl. Joel Frentress says. "A lot of times the kids aren't paying attention so it's all the more important the drivers do."

Frentress says in the 15 minutes he sat outside Cope Middle School Wednesday- with the lights flashing in the school zone- he saw several motorists speed by, some were talking on their phone or even texting.

While police are not enforcing the speed laws during the Wednesday trial run, they will begin writing tickets on the first day of school Aug. 8.

"Be aware of the school zones," Bossier Parish Schools spokesperson Sonja Bailes asks. "I know we've all gotten out of the habit over the summer [of] not having to slow down in front of schools."

Some authorities say speed is only half the problem, and distraction can be just as deadly.

A 2009 study by the group Safe Kids Worldwide found one in six drivers in a school zone was driving distracted, and cell phone use was the number one leading distracter.

"Any time you're doing something other than having both hands on the wheel and paying attention to what's in front of you, you're distracted," Frentress says. "Talking on a cell phone is included in that."

While there is no state law banning cell phone use for all drivers in active school zones, learner's permit holders, intermediate license holders, and drivers under age 18 cannot use cell phones behind the wheel. That covers a significant number of students driving themselves to and from high school.

When KTBS 3 News contacted LA Rep. Jeff Thompson (R- Bossier City) to see if he had ever looked into this law on behalf of the officers who want it, he said he would look into the matter.

Rep. Thompson enlisted legislative services and the House's Transportation, Highway, and Public Works Committee to explore the risks posed and the likelihood of passage.

Thompson says any legislation proposed would likely be similar to the Department of Defense regulations at Barksdale Air Force Base where drivers are prohibited from using cell phones behind the wheel without hands-free devices.

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