Chapel Hill broke ground with the Council’s passage last month banning all cell phone use while driving but a towing company hauled the case to court and won an injunction against the city’s enactment of the new ordinance.
For those who recognize the dangerous distraction conversations have on a driver’s attention to driving, it was a clear defeat. For those who have incorporated cell phone use in conducting their business, it was a clear victory.
An ordinance the hyper-active Council passed in February required towing companies to place numerous signs on tow lots and make calls to police every time a vehicle is towed, which would violate the cell phone law.
The no cell phone use while driving ordinance was passed in April, receiving national attention as the first of its kind and was due to go into effect June 1.
However, Orange County (where Chapel Hill is located) Superior Court Judge Orlando Hudson blocked both ordinances from being enacted in an order signed May 8.
The City Council, which divided 5 to 4 in passing the no cell phone use ban, choose not to take to heart an advisory letter from the North Carolina Attorney General’s office that the Council had no authority to enact the ban.
An appeal of the temporary injunction may be filed by the city and there may be more legal wrangling over who has the right to do what.
The bottom line is the City Council was right in wanting to restrict cell phone use while driving. The state already has a ban on texting while driving and may eventually ban hand-held phone use while driving.
No one argues they drive more safely while talking on the phone but a driver talking on a hand-held phone clearly faces a slower reaction time in an emergency than someone who already has both hands on the wheel.
Ten years ago, our country had a chance to stifle all phone use while driving but we ignored the successes in Europe and elsewhere and delayed any meaningful action until everyone had a cell phone and wanted to stay connected, even while driving a car. It has become an essential operating tool for thousands of businesses.
Can we put the Genie back in the bottle? I think the bell has rung and it can’t be unrung, especially with Bluetooth and the endorsement of that technology by the automotive manufacturers.
To all those who support an absolute ban, let’s at least stop hand-held cell phone use while driving. That alone appears to be an insurmountable political hurdle.