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Chapel Hill bans all cellphone use while driving

Posted March 26, 2012
Updated March 27, 2012

— A ban on all cellphones behind the wheel, including the use of hands-free mobile devices by drivers, was passed by Chapel Hill Town Council in a 5-4 vote Monday.

The ban, which is the first of its kind in North Carolina, is scheduled to go into effect June 1. It applies to any moving vehicle within the town limits.

Supporters of the ban say it is a groundbreaking crackdown on distracted driving, one of the leading causes of car wrecks, but opponents argue that such legislation should be made at the state level.

Questions have also been raised about whether a municipality has the authority to enact such a ban. A state assistant attorney general sent a letter in February saying that towns don't have the authority to pass a cellphone ban.

Many have argued that hands-free devices, including Bluetooth technology, should be allowed.

"If you have a new car, relatively new car, with a dashboard that has all the connections that allow you to talk wirelessly, you can't use it," said council member Laurin Easthom.

cell phones driving Sweeping ban on cellphones while driving passes in Chapel Hill

Council member Donna Bell said the ordinance could be an important first step toward a statewide cellphone ban.

"I wish it was coming from the state, but it doesn't seem like the state is going to do it at this point, and if they take on the example of little Chapel Hill, I'll be perfectly happy with that," Bell said.

The new ordinance makes cellphone use behind the wheel a secondary offense, meaning an officer must first stop a vehicle for another reason before issuing a citation for violating the ban.

"This isn't really banning talking on a cellphone. It's banning talking on a cellphone if you've done something noticeably bad when you're driving," said council member Ed Harrison.

Violators of the ban will face a $25 fine. The town plans to educate drivers about the law, including posting signs at the town limits.

North Carolina state law prohibits drivers age 18 and under from using cellphones and also makes texting while driving illegal when a car is in motion. Ten states and the District of Columbia have bans on using hand-held cellphones while driving.


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  • HBdirtbag Apr 2, 2012

    Piene, what do you do for a living? I'd be willing to bet it's not something that has you on the road a lot where getting business (calls) done in the car essential

  • piene2 Mar 28, 2012

    “What has CH banned to your knowledge besides cell phoning while driving? - Hammerhead

    Gas powered leaf blowers a couple of years ago, loud motorcycles are two of note in the past 7-8 years And....


    Yes that's right. Chapel Hill has banned noise (anything over 50 db). Do you know how low that is? No one has limits that low

    That is fantastic! Perhaps I shall look for my next investment property there.

  • piene2 Mar 28, 2012

    “Just think of all the drivers that will now be parked on the shoulder of the road so they can make a phone call . . . then a CH policeman can write you a ticket for parkinig on the shoulder w/o probable cause.

    AAAGGGGUUUHHHH, parking on the shoulder without probable cause?? You got me laughing so hard I spilled my coffee.

  • piene2 Mar 28, 2012

    "Actually this legislation should be made at the federal level.
    Z Man"

    Actually you will be happy to know that it is in the works. and it is coming not from the cops but from the Federal communications commission. Banning use by commercial truck drivers is the lynchpin to banning it completely.


  • dogwonder Mar 27, 2012

    Secondary offense.... yeah right! They said that about seat belts too and what a joke. What - so a cop is supposed to say 'you were weaving' first?

  • piene2 Mar 27, 2012

    Wow, some of the comments here are really depressing. I find it incomprehensible that there are people that state that a cell phone ban will affect their life significantly. I guess those are the same people that had nervous breakdowns when they stopper airing "I Love Lucy" reruns.

    What the heck is the big deal? If my phone rings I pull over and answer it. That action does not change my life a bit. I do not make calls from my car and that also has not affected my life one bit. People and their cell phone habits are simply pathetic.

  • RM24 Mar 27, 2012

    Why not just enforce the wreckless driving law? If anything causes you to drive poorly then you get a ticket for unsafe driving? Reguardless of what is the cause? There are not nor never will be laws and rules to create this perfect world you are after. Some things can't be achieved!

  • aquamarine46 Mar 27, 2012

    The LEO's are going to be pretty distracted themselves trying to look through tinted windows well enough to see if someone is talking on a bluetooth. Impossible to enforce!!

  • Smokin Mar 27, 2012

    I have a hands-free built into my car. I rarely talk on the phone, but it's nice to know I can if I need directions or I'm stuck in traffic. I'm responsible enough to tell whomever I'm talking to that I'm coming into traffic and will call them back as I'm sure many others on here are. This law is more than a money maker, it's another way for the extreme liberals around here to control everyone ELSE's life.

  • TAGS Mar 27, 2012

    why stop with cell phones? what about eating in the car? reading in the car? putting on make-up in the car? all of which goes on too over there in CH? and please tell me how you will enforce this?

    just one more thing that will distract police officers from doing their real job like preventing 2 young guys from robbing and killing innocent young girls?