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Lawsuit Puts Chapel Hill Cell Phone Ban on Hold

About a month ago we reported that Chapel Hill, N.C. was going be to be the first town in the nation to outlaw all cell phone use, including hands-free devices while driving (Chapel Hill, N.C. Bans All Cell Phone Use While Driving). This new ordinance was supposed to take effect in June of this year. However, it seems the first challenge to this new ordinance has been filed and will put the plans on hold for now.

The lawsuit was filed by George’s Towing & Recovery, which is a small local business in Chapel Hill. They argued that the new ordinance banning cell phone usage while driving is at odds with a new towing ordinance which requires tow truck drivers to call the police to report when a car is being towed. Since the company is not large enough to support a dispatcher, they rely on cell phones to conduct business and follow all local ordinances. In their complaint filed on May 2, 2012, George’s Towing said that the two new ordinances would do irreparable harm to business and the contradictory requirements would make it impossible for the company to comply with both ordinances.

Attorneys for the towing company pointed out that not only would the ban damage the towing company’s business, but the town council had also exceeded its authority in initiating the ban. They argue that the town had no authority to enact an ordinance prohibiting the use of mobile phones while driving because cities do not have the authority to enact that type of legislation.

Durham Superior Court Judge Orlando Hudson agreed with the towing company’s argument and made his injunction against the ban permanent. Attorneys for the town pledged to work out the conflict between the towing ordinance and the cell phone ban before June 1, but the judge was unmoved.

The future of the cell phone ban is currently unknown. Many supporters still believe the ordinance will be implemented in the future as a way to prevent car accidents from distracted driving. The town is currently looking to amend the towing ordinance so there will no longer be a conflict between it and the cell phone ban. Unfortunately, we will not know the outcome until the issue has a chance to work itself through the courts.


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