Chapel Hill NC will be the first US town to ban all cellphone use while driving, even hands-free earpieces or in-car Bluetooth
When the law goes into effect on June 1st, Chapel Hill, North Carolina won’t be the first in the country by far to ban cellphones while driving, but it is the first to ban any sort of cellphone use at all— including hands-free headsets and earpieces and in-car Bluetooth phones.
Following the result, some councillors are optimistic that they move could spark a nationwide ban. Council member Donna Bell said:
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.
However, it remains unclear whether the ban will go ahead.
Critics have argued that the legislation should be made at state-level, as local officials lack the authority to do so. In a written response last year, Chapel Hill’s assistant attorney general said:
An ordinance by the Town of Chapel Hill regulating motorists’ use of cell phones is preempted by State law, and therefore, unenforceable.
It is claimed that there is precedent as courts in Pennsylvania have struck down similar initiatives that were made at a local level.
Furthermore, the city’s local police chief said that the ruling would be difficult to enforce. The ordinance is a secondary violation, as The Herald Sun explains, which means that officers cannot stop motorists directly. They are only able to charge motorists who they have stopped for other violations, such as exceeding the speed limit or failing to wear a seat belt.
Normal cell phone conversing and texting while driving is certainly dangerous, but talking through a hands-free earpiece or through a car’s built-in Bluetooth setup seems no less dangerous than having a conversation with a passenger in the car. And yes, enforcing it, especially if someone is using their phone through a car’s Bluetooth tethering is nearly impossible.
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