It wasn't easy, and residents' reactions are mixed , at best. But starting June 1, 2012, anyone driving within the city limits of Chapel Hill, North Carolina (NC), risks a $25 fine if police spot him or her talking on a cell phone. The cell phone ban extends to hands-free electronic communication devices, as well as headsets and handheld phones.
Drivers caught using phones in their vehicles can only avoid being ticketed if they can prove they were experiencing an emergency or speaking with a parent, child or spouse. North Carolina state law already prohibits teens younger than 18 from using cell phones to talk while driving, and texting behind the wheel is banned in the Tar Heel State regardless of age.
A city council member explained to WRAL-TV that she and a slim majority of her elected colleagues enacted the new local ordinance to protect all drivers, passengers, bike riders and pedestrians. Indeed, study after study has shown that people who use cell phones, smartphones and electronic devices such as GPS systems behind the wheel are as much as 40 percent more likely to cause or be involved in traffic accidents than are drivers who are not distracted.
The National Transportation Safety Board has urged all states and localities to adopt cell phone bans for drivers. For as much time as my North Carolina personal injury attorney colleagues and I spend in our cars going to meet with our clients, get to hearings and depositions, and run errands for our families, we also support the action of the Chapel Hill lawmakers. Simply put, we see too many instances of people being severely injured or killed by drivers who allowed their eyes and minds to wander from the road because they were using phones and other electronic devices.
While Chapel is the first city to try eliminating practically all cell phone use by drivers, I hope it will not be the last.
About the Editors: The Shapiro, Lewis & Appleton personal injury law firm, which has offices in Virginia (VA) and North Carolina (NC), edits the injury law blogs Virginia Beach Injuryboard, Norfolk Injuryboard and Northeast North Carolina Injuryboard as pro bono services.