On Monday, March 26th, Chapel Hill’s town council banned all cell phone use, including the hands-free devices, while driving in the town limits.
The North Carolina town is the first in the U.S. to ban hands-free cell call while driving, while other cities have only banned testing and handset calling. An inquiry to the state attorney general’s office found that the city did not have the authority to mandate cell phone use.
On March 12th, the town council voted on a first reading of the ordinance, but because one council member was absent, they wound up with a 4-4 tie. On Monday, March 26th, with all council members present, the ban passed 5-4.
If the law is to be enforceable, it would mean that drivers will only be allowed to make emergency calls to authorities, spouses, partners, or children, and officers would need to check the cell phone to ensure the call did not fall under one of these categories. It took the town council a 2 year debate until it approved the law. The fee for talking on the phone within town’s limits is $25.
“I wish it was coming from the state, but it doesn’t seem like the state is going to do it at this point, and if they take on the example of little Chapel Hill, I’ll be perfectly happy with that,” said council member Donna Bell.