Ask The Advocate: Nix the cellphones in school zones _lowres

Advocate staff photo by VICKI FERSTEL -- A cell phone use prohibited sign is posted at Fountainbleu at Old Hammond Highway in the Riveroaks Elementary school zone. A new state law prohibits use of certain devices when driving during restricted hours in school zones.

There are new signs in school zones prohibiting the use of handheld cellphones in the zones. These prohibitions, on the school zone speed limit signs, are in effect from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. and from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Does this mean that the handheld cellphone prohibitions are only in effect during these hours?

The simple answer is: yes.

Also, Cpl. Don Coppola, a spokesman with the Baton Rouge Police Department, notes that the prohibition is in effect only once the signs are posted. That has not yet been completed at all the parish’s school zones.

Although drivers can use their wireless devices in school zones during times that are not restricted, Coppola urges them to refrain from doing so because children may still be in the area.

The law, which went into effect on Aug. 1, prohibits drivers from operating any “wireless telecommunications device” during posted hours within a school zone. This includes engaging in a call; writing, sending or reading text messages; and reading or posting to a social networking site.

Devices prohibited include cell phones, text-messaging devices, personal digital assistants and stand-alone computers. They do not include devices permanently attached to the vehicle, those licensed for Amateur Radio Service or those with a push-to-talk function.

Of course, there are exceptions: reporting emergencies or criminal acts, using the device when your personal safety is in jeopardy, operating the device while the motor vehicle is lawfully parked and using the device in an official capacity as an operator of an emergency vehicle.

The fine for a first violation is not more than $175 and fines for each subsequent violation are up to $500. If the driver is involved in a collision at the time of the violation, then the fine shall be doubled.

Send questions to Ask The Advocate, 7290 Bluebonnet Blvd., Baton Rouge, LA 70810; or fax to Ask The Advocate, (225) 388-0371; or email askthe