A state court judge has blocked enforcement of a Chapel Hill municipal ordinance prohibiting all use of cell phones by motorists while driving. Under the ordinance, cellphone use would have officially become a traffic violation on June 1. The law would have encompassed the use of both hand-held and hands-free cellphones and would have applied to motorists regardless of their age.
Proponents of the expanded restrictions had argued that it would be beneficial for motorists, helping them to focus their attention on their driving. Motorists throughout the state are already barred from attempting to transmit text messages while behind the wheel, and those under the age of 18 may not make any use of phones while driving.
The Chapel Hill ordinance was enacted after two years of debate in April, narrowly passing by a vote of 5 to 4. The temporary restraining order banning it from going into effect was entered in a lawsuit filed against the city by a towing company. The company asserts that its drivers must use cellphones while driving to respond to questions concerning vehicles they have towed from a location and that may need to be relinquished.
The expanded ban the ordinance represents is the first such broad restriction on cellphone use attempted anywhere in North Carolina. During further proceedings, the towing company will attempt to convince the judge to convert his temporary restraining order into a preliminary or permanent injunction, while the city plans to argue that the wide ban on cellphone use by drivers is justified and should be enforced.
According to Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt, the matter should be settled by June 1.
Source: NCNN, “Cell Phone Ban On-Hold in Chapel Hill,” Bruce Ferrel & Josh Zach, May 14, 2012