Maumelle, Arkansas -
Student drop-off in the mornings at Maumelle Middle School can get hectic.
"Kids are running in between cars and drivers are not paying attention and somebody will get hurt," said parent Nancy Flanagan.
Flanagan frequently sees students and fellow parents driving and dialing, both in the school pick-up line and on the roadway.
"They're not focused," she said. "They're either playing on their phones or on their phones talking, completely distracted."
That has Maumelle Police posting a final warning before people start paying a pretty hefty fine of $200 if they're found to be using a cell phone in a school zone.
"Cell phones are a part of everyone's lives, I'm guilty of that," said Capt. Jim Hansard, Maumelle Police spokesperson. "This is the one time during your day that we're asking you to put them down. It's not too much to ask, and it's for students' safety."
Talking on a cell phone within a school zone became against the law in Arkansas in late 2011. But school officials have said they continue to have close calls and near misses between cars and kids on campus.
One assistant principal wrote in an email about the issue, "
"When people talk about safety in schools, they think about other things," said Pulaski County Special School District (PCSSD) spokesperson Deb Roush. "For us as a school district, safety starts before the kids even get to school. It's those parents and student drivers."
PCSSD considers the increased effort in Maumelle a partnership between the district and police, adding that cell phone use is a growing concern.
"What a lot of people might not realize is that there are students who can get hardship licenses, so there are 14-year-olds behind the wheel on the way to school," Roush said. "So these adults are driving alongside students, and no one needs to be distracted."
"There's a lot of kids darting in and out at all these schools," Capt. Hansard said. "It's an effort to keep everybody safe."
Roush added that the district often has issues because of the rural nature of the district, where there are long stretches of road and drivers may not realize school is in session.
"All the way down Highway 10 we have schools out there," she said. "Those are places where people are just used to being on their phones and need to be reminded they need to put them down."
So, what if you're approaching a school zone and you absolutely have to use your cell phone? If you're an adult driver, Hansard suggests using hands-free technology like bluetooth will keep you in the clear. If you're a younger driver, however, there are different rules.
"An intermediate driver, someone between 16 and 18 years old, can't use them [cell phones] at all in a school zone or while driving, period," Hansard said.
The law doesn't make cell phone usage a primary offense, but while police are patrolling for other infractions, they will be looking for school zones to be cell phone free.
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