Two weeks ago, Chapel Hill, NC became the first city in the nation to ban
talking on the cell phone while driving. The ordinance, which was passed
by a 5-4 city council vote, will go into place officially on June 1.
The law expands on similar laws in a number of cities by making it illegal
to talk on both hand-held and hands-free cell phones. The law even applies
to new cars with dashboards that allow drivers to talk wirelessly. Violators
of the new rule will be fined $25.
While the council’s vote puts the law on the city’s books,
the state claims that Chapel Hill doesn’t have the authority to
enact the ban. The Assistant Attorney General of North Carolina says that
that state already has laws concerning cell phone usage. For instance,
texting is already illegal for all drivers in North Carolina and cell
phones may not be used by any drivers under 18 years of age. Cell phone
usage while driving, says the state, is not a city by city issue but a
matter for state concern.
Another challenge to the rule is police enforcement. While an outright
ban would allow police to stop anyone using a cell phone and driving,
the law as it stands now includes a number of exceptions. For instance,
it says that cell phones can be used when drivers are making emergency
calls or calling a spouse, parent or child. To find someone in violation
of the offense, police would need to check the driver’s cell phone
for call histories. Chapel Hill Police Chief Chris Blue has indicated
that police would have a heavy burden to prove that a violation occurred.
On the other side, proponents of the rule say that banning hand-held cell
phone usage has been highly successful in other cities. Evanston, Illinois,
for instance, has banned cellphone usage for two years and in that time
has seen driving accidents decrease by 17.6%.
With this sort of success rate, we may see more cell phone restrictions
coming to Texas soon. If you’ve been injured in an
accident due to the negligence (cell phone related or otherwise) of a driver
contact the Kyle Law Firm today.