Local News

Chapel Hill considers cell phone ban for drivers

Posted February 8, 2010
Updated February 9, 2010

— The Chapel Hill Town Council is considering a town-wide ban on the use of handheld devices to make calls while driving.

Chapel Hill mulls ban on drivers' cell phones Chapel Hill mulls ban on drivers' cell phones

Council member Penny Rich said Monday that banning cell phone use while driving would improve safety on the road.

"In Chapel Hill ... we keep growing and we have more cars on the road. We don't need anymore distractions,” Rich said.

Chapel Hill resident Thomas Transue said he supports a ban and said people talking on the phone while driving are dangerous.

"It's just as bad as being behind the wheel intoxicated," Transue said. "I'd support a ban because it would keep people from using their phone if they knew they got a fine.”

According to AAA, a person who uses a cell phone while driving has the same deficient motor skills as someone with 0.08 blood-alcohol content level, which the state considers legally impaired.

State law already bans drivers from text messaging or sending e-mails with their cell phones. Under the law, drivers have to either pull over or wait until they have stopped their vehicle before texting or sending an e-mail. Violators face a $100 fine, plus court costs.

However, the texting ban, which went into effect last December, doesn't go far enough for some drivers.

“Texting is really bad because you're taking your eyes off the road. But talking on the cell phone is not good either because you're really distracted,” Chapel Hill resident Jerry Stau said.

But some residents don't support the idea of a ban and say talking on a cell phone while driving is sometimes necessary.

"There are times when you have to pick up the phone and whether it's an emergency or someone’s calling you, and if you're in the car, then that’s where you are. I don't think someone should take those options away,” Chapel Hill resident Betsy Carter said.

Council members plan to hear from the public on this issue later this month. It’s likely they would need approval from state General Assembly before being able to create a ban on cell phone use while driving. They would also have to address how to enforce it.

California, Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Washington and the District of Columbia ban talking on a hand-held device for all drivers, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association.

In all of those territories except Washington state, police can pull over and ticket a driver for cell phone use.

The Highway Loss Data Institute released a study last month examining insurance claims from crashes before and after cell-phone bans took effect in California, New York, Connecticut and Washington, D.C.

The organization found that insurance claim rates did not go down after the laws were enacted. It also found no change in patterns compared with nearby states without such bans.

The National Safety Council, meanwhile, supports a total ban on cell phone use while driving, including the use of handsfree devices.


This story is closed for comments.

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  • Vietnam Vet Feb 9, 2010

    I have to admit, I've seen people do some pretty stupid stuff and in just about every case I've also seen a phone up to their ear... Now I'm not saying there aren't some folks that can drive and talk on the phone successfully but there are definitely those that can't walk and chew gum at the same time also.

  • Titus Pullo Feb 9, 2010

    I favor banning all cell phone use.

  • april65 Feb 9, 2010

    I bet over half the people on here who is complaining about cell phone usage uses the phone while driving. What about those drivers that cut in and out of traffic that aren't talking on the phone? Cross over 4 lanes to get to the exit ramp. Thats what causes wrecks, ignorant drivers. I do talk on my cell phone while driving, and I have never been in a bump up much less a wreck. So don't blame it on the cell phones, blame it on the people who are in such a big hurry that they shoulda left yesterday. Just another way of the government trying to control our lives. Drugs kill also, but drug dealers are still walking the street. When will the government start controlling this problem??? This is supposed to be a free country but our rights are steadily getting stripped one by one. Next thing you know, we gonna have laws passed saying when we sleep and when we wake up. Its not the cell phones people but non drivers that cause accidents.

  • workingforthosethatwont Feb 9, 2010

    there's enough government in my life now, I don't wan't them in my car to. Next thing you know they'll be telling us to look straight ahead and no drinks in the cupholders.
    How about the women putting on make up? There was a police officer hit and killed in PA by a woman distracted while applying eyeliner. Now there's a problem!

  • 5-113 FA Retired Feb 9, 2010

    I don't have time to talk on my cell phone while driving because I'm too busy playing spider solitaire and reading the lame posts about driving distractions on my laptop.

  • whinnfjord Feb 9, 2010

    People need to realize that the simple fact is that cell phones leads to drivers being distracted. "Hands free device"s do NOTHING to prevent accidents! The problem is not a lack of dexterity (who can't turn a steering wheel with one hand?), the problem is a lack of attention. Humans only have a limited amount of things that they can focus on at a single time and talking on a cell phone will lead to "tunnel vision" where the driver is more or less passively driving (i.e not scanning for other cars, people, children, etc. that may come into their path) instead of actively surveying their surroundings; they only stare straight ahead and can't pay enough attention to that car ahead that looks like it may pull out in front of them.)

    Hands free devices are useless to combat this problem and it sickens me that legislators everywhere continue to enact laws that serve no real purpose because they don't actually address the cause! Either ban all cell phone use while driving or do nothing!

  • wildcat Feb 9, 2010

    So, lets START by eliminating one of the main distractions on the road - CELL PHONES - and then we'll go from there...
    February 9, 2010 4:

    I agree. Need to start somewhere. Cell-phone first since it has been the most troublesome problem and cause.

  • boingc Feb 9, 2010


    No, it's not all or nothing. Yes, there are many distractions -- but it's a good start to ban cell phones, as they are one of the main distractions. So, lets START by eliminating one of the main distractions on the road - CELL PHONES - and then we'll go from there...

  • wildcat Feb 9, 2010

    Just obey the law.

  • wildcat Feb 9, 2010


    It is just killing some of you not to have the use of the cell-phone while you are driving. Hey, it is not the end of the world.