Chapel Hill puts cell phone ban on hold - WNCN: News, Weather

Chapel Hill puts cell phone ban on hold

By Steve Sbraccia

The town of Chapel Hill has yet to decide if it will cut off all cell phone use by drivers in that community; putting the issue on hold so to speak.

The council voted on the issue Monday night, but that vote ended up in a tie so the ordinance was not enacted.

The issue will now be voted on in two weeks at the next business meeting of the Chapel Hill Town Council on March 26th.

During debate on the issue, several councilors worried about the legality the ban.

“If we did this, the town really is putting itself out there subject to legal risk for the ordinance,” said councilor Laurin Easthom.

Proponents of the ban said it would also serve to educate people, but that argument didn’t work for councilor Matt Czajkowski.

“I just don’t think you pass laws that you don’t have the authority to pass and with enforcement that is somewhere between feeble and non-existent for education,” he said.

Monday’s meeting didn’t attract the kind of crowd that attended saw the last time the issue was discussed. There were many empty seats during the discussion of the issue; but those who spoke in favor of the ban were passionate.

“I completely want a full ban; no cell phones while driving in Chapel Hill and I want to see Chapel Hill be the first city to take this approach,” said resident Gary Kahn.

Others told the council they need to go beyond a cell phone ban and look at all kinds distracted driving in the community.

“If the council considers this and passes it, I also want to make sure the council recognizes other public safety issues such as pugilistic motorists, aggressive driving, driving over the speed limit, disciplining children, domestic disputes that take place while a vehicle is in motion and having unrestrained pets sharing the drivers seat with drivers,” said cell phone ban advocate Carl Schuler.

As the proposal is currently written, a ticket for using a cell phone would be a secondary offense carrying a $25 fine.

Distracted driving; it's a growing problem nationwide. So much so, that The National Transportation Safety Board says it would like to see a nationwide-ban on cell phone use while driving.

The NTSB is concerned about the growing number of highway crashes that involve driver distraction, particularly distraction caused by the use of a portable electronic device (PED). Despite the downward trend in highway fatalities, almost 33,000 people were killed on the nation's highways in 2010, and about one in 10 of these deaths occurred in a crash involving driver distraction.

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