Will New Ordinance Help Minimize Car Accidents in North Carolina?


March 15, 2012
By Lee Law Offices, P.A. on March 15, 2012 9:18 AM |

Chapel Hill Town Council is still working toward banning drivers from using cell phones while driving. Recently, the council voted 7-2 to schedule possible action this month. According to The Carrboro Citizen, council members Gene Pease and Matt Czajkowski cast the dissenting votes, saying that this kind of ban would be tough to enforce. In the state of North Carolina, the only drivers who are prohibited from using hand-held cell phones while driving are those who drive school buses and those under the age of 18, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA). A full ban on cell phone use for all drivers would help to reduce the risks of distraction-related car accidents in North Carolina, as long as drivers obeyed the law.
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Originally, the ordinance was created by Ralph Karpinos, the town's attorney. It would stop drivers from using cell phones or any of its technology such as music players, cameras and GPS applications while driving. Each violation would land a driver with a $25 fine. Under his draft of the ordinance, it was to be a secondary offense, meaning that an officer could cite a driver for this infraction only if the traffic stop was made for another illegal issue, such as speeding or running a red light.

Our North Carolina car accident attorneys understand that not all drivers would be banned under the proposed ordinance. Drivers who use a cell phone to communicate with emergency responders in the event of an emergency would be exempt. Drivers talking with parents, legal guardians, children or spouses would be exempt, too. Now how would you go about enforcing that? It's tough enough as it is trying to determine if a driver is composing a text message or dialing a phone number to call. Now we're going to expect officials to determine who a driver is talking to?

According to Karpinos, these exceptions were included to give the ordinance a better chance of being upheld if it were to be challenged. He also says that this ordinance could be pre-empted by state law.

"Attention needs to be on the road, not a telephone call or text message," said a resident of Asheville who knows firsthand the consequences of distracted driving. Her brother was killed in a distraction-related accident.

Council member Jim Ward said that although this kind of rule should ultimately be a national or state responsibility, there's no reason that Chapel Hill and other cities shouldn't take control and help to ease the dangers on our roadways. Ward supports even higher fines. He suggests a $100 fine for violators instead of the $25 fine written in the current proposal.

Council member Lee Storrow isn't supporting the phone a family member exemption though. He said it's no less dangerous to be talking to someone you know. If the activity is going to be banned for some, it needs to be banned for all.

Contact Lee Law Offices, P.A. if you or someone in your family has been hurt in a distraction-related car accident in North or South Carolina. Our experienced team of Carolina car accident attorneys can help to advise you of your rights and pursue the proper compensation for your injuries. Call 1-800-887-1965 to schedule a free and confidential consultation to discuss your case.

More Blog Entries:

Council to consider cell phone ordinance, by Susan Dickson, The Carrboro Citizen

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Union County Car Accident Kills 1 Teen, Injures 4, North Carolina Car Accident Lawyers Blog, February 17, 2012

Greenville Car Accidents Reduced by AARP Safe Driving Course
, North Carolina Car Accident Lawyers Blog, February 14, 2012