Local News

Chapel Hill revisits idea of cellphone ban for drivers

Posted June 14, 2011 5:05 p.m. EDT
Updated June 15, 2011 5:58 a.m. EDT

— Months after shelving discussion of a local ban on using cellphones while driving, Chapel Hill officials have revived the idea for a possible Town Council vote this fall.

Chapel Hill looked last year at prohibiting drivers from using of cellphones but halted discussions to see if the General Assembly would enact a statewide ban. Because that legislation died, town officials have asked staff to begin studying it again.

"The concern is one where it's reasonable at least to have a conversation about how we should handle it," Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt said Tuesday.

North Carolina law prevents drivers age 18 and under from using cell phones. Eight states and the District of Columbia have complete bans.

Kleinschmidt said he's undecided on a ban but said issues of enforcement on state roads, including Franklin Street, and whether hands-free devices would be allowed need to be examined.

"Is somebody using a hands-free device and are they distracted, or are they just singing along to Lady Gaga?" he said.

The Highway Safety Research Center at the University of North Carolina said using a cellphone while driving increases the risk of a crash by four times. Also, using a hands-free device doesn't lower a driver's risk, according to the research center.

"The other day, I almost got hit from somebody talking on the cellphone," said Chapel Hill resident Amanda Abbott, adding that she would support a local ban.

"I think it's good. So many accidents are caused from people talking on their cellphones. You don't pay attention, really," Abbott said.

Resident Omar Morales admitted he's guilty of talking on the phone too much while behind the wheel.

"It does distract. I like to get on the phone and talk," Morales said, adding that he's trying to break the habit.