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Chapel Hill bans all cell phone use while driving

Students and residents in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, may want to put down their phone and focus on the road starting June 1. On that date, Chapel Hill officers can start ticketing drivers for talking on the phone. This is a change from the current law that only prohibits texting while driving. Even drivers who are using a hands-free system can be ticketed under the terms of the ban.

The ban was enacted when town council members decided that holding a phone is not what is putting drivers in danger. They argue that whether or not a call is on speaker, Bluetooth, or right up to a person's ear makes little difference. The distracting behavior is carrying on a phone conversation while driving. Instead of focusing on the environment around the car, drivers on the phone are focused on the person on the other end of the phone.

It is important to note, however, that a driver cannot get pulled over strictly for talking on the phone. Talking on a cell phone is considered a second-offense violation. This means that a driver who is pulled over for another infraction - speeding, swerving, running a stop sight - can then be cited for talking on the phone in addition to the original violation. If you are driving safely and talking on your phone, there is no reason to get pulled over.

A ticket for talking on the phone will cost a driver about $25. However, when questioned about possible challenges from drivers, a North Carolina assistant attorney general admits that the ordinance may be unenforceable.

Even when tickets seem small or insignificant, they can have a negative effect on a person's driving record. Depending on the violation, it could even jeopardize future career opportunities. However, by working with an attorney, there may be ways to have the ticket removed from your record and any associated fines dismissed.

Source: Fox News, "North Carolina town plans to ticket drivers for any cellphone use," Brooks Blanton, April 13, 2012

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