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Cellphone ban worries some Chapel Hill businesses

Posted March 28, 2012

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— Some small-business owners say that they expect Chapel Hill's cellphone ban for drivers will cost them time and money when the ordinance takes effect in June.

The Town Council voted 5-4 Monday to outlaw both handheld and hands-free cellphones while driving, making the town the first North Carolina community to enact such a ban.

It's not a welcome first for Mark England, who co-owns Advanta Clean, a cleaning service that responds to fire and water emergencies in Chapel Hill.

"I work out of my car, so I rely a lot on email and cellphone," England said.

A lot of his business, he says, is dependent on how fast he's able to respond in emergency situations. Missing a cellphone call, email or text, he says, could cost him several thousands of dollars in lost work.

"It doesn't make Chapel Hill more attractive to work in at all," he said. "We do emergency services, so we go wherever we are called, but I could focus more of my marketing efforts outside of Chapel Hill."

He's not alone in his concern for how the ban might affect business.

Sera Cuni, general manager of Foster's Market near the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, thinks it goes too far.

The market has about a dozen deliveries a day.

Cellphone ban worries some Chapel Hill businesses Cellphone ban worries some Chapel Hill businesses

"A lot of our customers ask us to call when we are on our way or when we get to the door – because a lot of (buildings on) the university are locked. So, that's really going to hinder us," Cuni said. "I think it's extreme."

Town Councilwoman Penny Rich, who pushed for the ordinance, says the ban is nothing against businesses.

"I think this is just purely safety measures to make sure our citizens are safe," she said.

Studies have shown that drivers who use handheld devices are four times more likely to get into crashes serious enough to cause injury.

Data collected from the state Department of Transportation from 2004 to 2008 shows an average of 57,984 people a year were involved in crashes in North Carolina where distracted driving was a factor. More than 13,000 were injured, and 119 died.

In February, the town hosted a driving simulation event on the UNC campus in which would-be drivers measured their driving skills and saw how quickly attention can be diverted with cellphones.

"It doesn't matter if you are holding a phone or not," Rich said. "It's actually the act of holding the conversation that creates this inattentive blindness."

Under the ban, cellphone use would be a secondary offense, meaning an officer must first stop a vehicle for another reason before issuing a citation for violating the ban. Violators would be fined $25.

North Carolina drivers already are prohibited from sending text messages while driving. Drivers under 18 are banned from any phone use.

Ten states and the District of Columbia have bans on using hand-held cellphones while driving.

16 Comments

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  • whatusay Mar 29, 2012

    mmtlash.....police always use the same reason for pulling you over, "YOU WERE WEAVING". I have been stopped 3 times for "weaving".... Police saw me buying beer at a convenient store once and gave me enough time they thought I might open one, highway patrol saw me buy a beer and pizza in Elizabethtown and followed me for 4 miles before stopping me (for weaving), and I was stopped once because the person in the car with me was not liked by police....so they pulled me for (weaving).

  • mmtlash Mar 29, 2012

    notice the article says you won't be fined unless you are pulled over for another reason (like speeding, running a red light etc) so as long as you are otherwise following the law while using a cell phone u will be ok

  • Alexia.1 Mar 29, 2012

    "Where is the study that supports the supposition that handsfree phones are just as 'dangerous' as holding a phone? Where is the evidence? That is an unsupported statement and Rich needs to be called out on it." --sarahsoandso

    And if there is any such evidence, I'd like to see that compared to those having a dialog with those sitting next to them or to the kids in the back seat.

    Accidents happen, but there's a world of difference between staring at the phone screen and doing something vs. talking on the phone (hands-free or not). Somebody who cannot drive down the road holding on a conversation at the same time probably ought not be driving in the first place, because they do not know how to drive.

  • sarahsoandso Mar 29, 2012

    "Studies have shown that drivers who use handheld devices are four times more likely to get into crashes serious enough to cause injury."

    "It doesn't matter if you are holding a phone or not," Rich said. "It's actually the act of holding the conversation that creates this inattentive blindness."

    Where is the study that supports the supposition that handsfree phones are just as 'dangerous' as holding a phone? Where is the evidence? That is an unsupported statement and Rich needs to be called out on it.

  • stanggt Mar 29, 2012

    So happy I don't live in snob hill... To ban handsfree is stupid. Most cars have it built into their stereo system (Ford Sync, etc) And it is NO different then talking to a passenger...Cleary this woman is an mentally challenged.

  • whatusay Mar 29, 2012

    You are more likely to be shot while driving in Durham than have an accident while on a cell phone.

  • whatusay Mar 29, 2012

    It should also be illegal to operate a radio in a car while driving, no difference than operating a cell phone. But, it's a stupid law to make it illegal to operate a hands free cell phone while driving, it's safer than operating a radio.

  • whatusay Mar 29, 2012

    I am sure exemptions will be given to some businesses. UPS and Fed-X drivers are exempt from the seat-belt-law because they exit and enter their vehicle so many times each day.

  • Uhavenoclu Mar 28, 2012

    If it rings or you need to make a call pull off the road,simple as that,into a parking lot or gas station or somewhere.
    Everything worries somebody..get over your fears.

  • wburt7 Mar 28, 2012

    To me it's ridiculous to ban hands free cell phones. What's next??? Will people have to stop listening to the radio, or playing their CDs?? Or even talking to anybody else that's in a vehicle with them??? COME ON!!! There's no difference.

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