“Chapel Hill Cell Phone Ban Draws Ire of Business Owners”

by Walter Olson on April 18, 2012

I’m quoted in this Carolina Journal article by Karen McMahan. “Chapel Hill became the first municipality in the nation to issue such a far-reaching ban when the town council enacted the measure March 26 by a 5-4 vote. The law goes into effect June 1.” Earlier on distracted driving here, etc.

{ 8 comments }

1 Robert 04.18.12 at 11:10 am

I’ve seen studies that say “handsfree or not, the distraction amount is the same.”

But this bill has a bizarre provision:

Council member Laurin Easthom, who voted against the measure, told Carolina Journal, “it’s laughable that you can talk to your mom or dad but not your brother,” referring to an exception that allows cell phone conversations with the driver’s parent, child, legal guardian, or spouse. The law also provides an exception for emergencies.

That’s just crazy. And I wonder if there’s some reason why allowing someone to only to talk to specific people violates a “freedom of association” clause. Plus it’s impossible to enforce.

2 marco73 04.18.12 at 3:34 pm

This is going to be a “secondary” violation, so supposedly the police can’t pull you over just for the cell phone, you would also have to commit another violation. Right.
Seat belt laws started out that way, and we now have cops in parking garages with binoculars and hanging from trees spotting people not using their seat belts.
They’ll just use the old “improper lane change” or “swerving”, and then they’ll start writing drivers up for violating the cell phone law. Can anyone say revenue enhancement?

3 DensityDuck 04.18.12 at 4:24 pm

Robert: It’s not crazy when you realize that it’s a piece of legislative spackle used to address the objection that this law would create circumstances where it was illegal for a parent to be in contact with a minor child.

4 Patrick 04.18.12 at 6:09 pm

I find it interesting that, although the North Carolina Attorney General (a Democrat) has informed the Chapel Hill town council that it lacks authority for the ban, the National Transportation Safety Board encouraged them to pass it anyway.

http://www.newsobserver.com/2012/03/27/1960281/chapel-hill-to-consider-cell-phone.html

I’ve driven through Chapel Hill talking on a cell phone, on a daily basis, for over ten years. If I’m stopped, I’ll be more than pleased to take up the town’s authority with an Orange County District Court judge, and past that if need be.

5 Robert 04.18.12 at 11:31 pm

How can they distinguish someone using a hands-free phone, especially one that’s built in to a car, from another common in-the-car activity: singing along with the radio? I’d hate to be pulled over because I’m singing!

6 CTrees 04.19.12 at 10:51 am

@Robert: Since there have been stories of people pulled and ticketed for talking on cell phones who did not own cell phones, and who 1) had officers refuse the invitation to search the vehicle to verify there was no phone and 2) subsequently lost in court and had to pay…

Yeah.

7 Bill Poser 04.19.12 at 8:22 pm

I don’t see how the exemption allowing conversations with certain relatives renders the ordnance unenforceable. In order to make use of the exemption, the driver would have to say who he was talking to, which could be confirmed or refuted using telephone records.

8 captnhal 04.20.12 at 7:06 am

“I don’t see how the exemption allowing conversations with certain relatives renders the ordnance unenforceable. In order to make use of the exemption, the driver would have to say who he was talking to, which could be confirmed or refuted using telephone records.”

Telephone records would only indicate the phone number, not the person using it.

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