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Council members discuss cell phone ban for drivers in Chapel Hill

Posted February 22, 2010

— The Chapel Hill Town Council on Monday evening discussed a proposal to ban the use of handheld devices to make calls while driving.

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

Capt. Bob Overton raised concerns over how Chapel Hill police would enforce the ban and who would be exempt.

"The problem is, if there were any exemptions, like 911 emergency calls,” Overton explained.

Everyone agreed the goal of the ban would be to improve safety on the roads, but is it realistic to expect drivers to comply.

"This is a really difficult issue for me,” said council member Sally Greene, who admitted to talking on her cell phone while driving.

"It’s great for us to pursue it, but it really won't work absolutely ... unless it's a statewide ban,” council member Ed Harrison said.

Joe Capowski was the only Chapel Hill resident who spoke publicly Monday in support of the ban.

"Distracted driving is a national issue whose battle is just beginning,” said Capowski, who is a former council member. "Please council members do your part at the local level. As you all know, think globally but act locally. Pass a ban on cell phone use while driving."

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.

Council members said Monday that they plan to review an upcoming report from the Joint Legislative Transportation Oversight Committee before moving forward with possible legislation. The report will cover the leading causes of driver distraction, as well as methods used to manage driver preoccupation.

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.


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  • Hammerhead Feb 24, 2010

    "But as my behavior infringed upon no one else's rights while I was doing it means I harmed no one and the government should have no say in what I am doing. It should not be the government's responsibility to legislate behavior."

    Really? They legislate a lot of our behavior already. Speeding comes to mind. Just because you didn't harm anyone doesn't mean you couldn't have, given the increased risk. Put the phone down, save a life.

  • nighttrain2010 Feb 23, 2010

    jgilchr, go ahead and remember it. I don't text as much as I used to because I recognized it does limit my reaction time. But as my behavior infringed upon no one else's rights while I was doing it means I harmed no one and the government should have no say in what I am doing. It should not be the government's responsibility to legislate behavior. The government should only proffer rules of punishment if I were to harm another or infringe upon another's rights (e.g. vehicle damage, bodily harm). I will continue to talk on my cell on my way home through Chapel Hill (which I have to drive through unfortunately every day) and give a wave to the cops as I drive by.

  • Tarheelfan13 Feb 23, 2010

    If I am not mistaking Chapel Hill would require the permission of the North Carolina General Assembly to enact and enforce this ordinance. I also concur with others that this is a state issue and not an issue for some local government.

  • Bendal1 Feb 23, 2010


    Sorry the studies don't match what you think is right, but I'm not really surprised. Lots of people refuse to accept the facts when they mean you would have to change your behavior. You might --think-- you are more distracted by someone yelling at you in the car than talking on a phone, but the studies say that, on average, the phone conversation is much more distracting than anything you do within the car itself.

    Your peripheral vision narrows and your detection/reaction time increases when talking on a phone. Those values are similar to someone with a BAC of 0.08; those are facts that can't be argued with, but I'm sure there's plenty of people who will say "why I drive all the time while talking on a phone, and I've never had any problems!".

    Sounds like a drunk driver defending his actions, doesn't it? Right up until he runs into someone.

  • jgilchr Feb 23, 2010

    luv2surffish but Dick Cheney didn't need to go there at least. He was given 5 draft deferments instead. Then there is Bush who managed to get into the National Guard and not really serve even within their ranks.

  • sillywabbitthepatriot Feb 23, 2010

    Not everyone has a job where they sit behind a desk. Many people travel during the day and their vehicle is often their office between two points.

    How about GPS systems? Don't you have to LOOK at them while driving unless they are voice automated? Maybe they should be banned also.

  • luv2surffish2 Feb 23, 2010

    dont forget as stated above. this is chapel hill.. haven for draft dodgers during vietnam war

  • wildcat Feb 23, 2010

    I believe some people have the cell-phone stuck to their ears while sleeping. They cannot do without the cell. lol Pitiful!

  • cwood3 Feb 23, 2010

    Remember, this is Chapel Hill. Anything weird, unusual, or strange in North Carolina begins in Chapel Hill. Problem is that some people act irresponibly with their cell phones. So they are going to punish everybody for the sins of a few.

    NORMAL FOR LIBERAL GOVERNMENTS!! Make a new law for everything. Makes their constituants think they are doing something. How about charging those acting irresponsibly with reckless and careless driving??? You don't need a new law to fix this-just apply one on the books for those who act irresponsibly with their phones.


  • wildcat Feb 23, 2010

    To ban the use of cell-phones while driving would be great. The state of NC should do this and pass a law to the effect. Saving a life would be outstanding.