Local News

Appeals court reinstates Chapel Hill ban on cellphones while driving

Posted June 4, 2013

Map Marker  Find News Near Me

— The state Court of Appeals on Tuesday reversed a lower court ruling that struck down Chapel Hill ordinances banning the use of cellphones while driving and regulating towing companies.

The town adopted the cellphone ban in March 2012, but the ordinance never took effect because towing company operator George King challenged them.

King also sued over towing regulations that Chapel Hill passed in February 2012 to cut down on complaints about predatory towing. Those rules require tow zones to be properly marked, set fees towing companies can charge, require them to accept credit or debit card payment, mandate that they inform police before towing any vehicle and prohibit impound lots from being located more than 15 miles from town.

King argued that the combination of the two ordinances would harm his business, saying that his drivers would be cited for using a cellphone in responding to calls from people seeking to recover their towed cars.

Superior Court Judge Orlando Hudson threw out both ordinances last year, backing the sentiment of King's attorney that Chapel Hill couldn't arbitrarily regulate the towing industry.

In a unanimous ruling, the court said Hudson was wrong in that King hadn't shown any harm from either ordinance.

"The plaintiffs, they hadn't received a citation, and so, there was no case for them to rule on," Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt said. "It tells me that there may be a day in the future in which our cellphone ban may be tested again in the courts."

Kleinschmidt said the town would begin enforcing the cellphone ban on June 24. Because it is considered a secondary offense, drivers will be cited only if they're pulled over for another traffic violation.

Local drivers remain split over the ordinance.

"No one should be driving and talking. When you're driving, you need to be driving and paying attention," Matilda Bailey said. "It's really unsafe to be using your phone in any manner."

"I think it's pretty much a joke. Why would they do it in Chapel Hill if they wouldn't do it statewide?" Chris Warren said.

North Carolina bans the use of cellphones by drivers age 18 and younger and by school bus drivers.

Kleinschmidt said he feels Chapel Hill's ban is "somewhat overbroad," but he said he's pleased the courts recognize that municipalities have the right to regulate matters of public safety.

"The General Assembly doesn't have to explicitly give us those powers in order to protect for our citizens' and our visitors' health and safety," he said.

King's lawyer said they plan to ask the state Supreme Court to review the decision.

77 Comments

This story is closed for comments.

Oldest First
View all
  • Brian Jenkins Jun 6, 2013

    Good for them,it has become an epidemic causing many car accidents.
    mrman2a
    June 5, 2013 11:48 a.m.
    Report abuse

    So do sleepy drivers. What law you want now? LOL poor people.

  • Brian Jenkins Jun 6, 2013

    "I think the ban should be statewide and include law enforcement."

    Guess that goes for their two-way radios too. Why do you hate effective law enforcement?
    lizard
    June 4, 2013 5:39 p.m.
    Report abuse

    Why do you hate liberty and accept authoritarianism? Did you get a Chinese imitation Constitution? As JBC said. I dont see that in my Constitution.

  • jbc268 Jun 6, 2013

    Lizard, can you point to the place in the Constitution that discusses talking on cell phones? I can't seem to find it....

  • greg69innc Jun 5, 2013

    Too bad the folks in Chapel Hill don't have enough common sense to hang up and drive and have to be baby sat by the police. I wonder if the CHPD gives out Huggies to drivers as well??

  • mrman2a Jun 5, 2013

    Good for them,it has become an epidemic causing many car accidents.

  • sweetlyght Jun 5, 2013

    "I think the ban should be statewide and include law enforcement."

    Police have used radio communication while driving for much longer than we have used cellphones. This only goes to show that communicating over a device while driving isn't all that dangerous or else they'd of been crashing into us for decades. A hands-free device should satisfy the need for safety.

  • Bartmeister Jun 4, 2013

    I'm driving up Franklin Street right now and posting to golo. Total anarchy I tell ya...............

  • Bartmeister Jun 4, 2013

    I have the constitutional right to speak to whom i want while driving.

    While I don't disagree, they're not telling you WHO you can talk to.

  • lizard Jun 4, 2013

    "I think the ban should be statewide and include law enforcement."

    Guess that goes for their two-way radios too. Why do you hate effective law enforcement?

  • lizard Jun 4, 2013

    I have the constitutional right to speak to whom i want while driving.

More...