Block of Chapel Hill cell phone ban continues

May 8, 2012 10:24:50 AM PDT
After issuing a temporary restraining order last week blocking Chapel Hill's new ban on the use of cell phones by drivers, Superior Court Judge Orlando Hudson backed it up Tuesday with a preliminary injunction.

Hudson issued the injunction after listening to lawyers for the town and George's Towing & Recovery. The towing company has argued that Chapel Hill's towing ordinance requires that its tow truck operators must use their mobile phones to respond to enquiries about cars that have been towed and need to be released.

It's challenging both the cell phone ban and the towing ordinance. The injunction issued Tuesday blocks both.

While the towing ordinance was already in effect, the cell phone ban was to take effect June 1. It was approved by the Chapel Hill town council by a vote of 5 to 4 after two years of consideration in April.

The ban would outlaw the use of hand-held and hands-free cell phones by drivers. Cell phone use would be a secondary offense, meaning an officer must first stop a vehicle for another reason before issuing a citation for violating the ban. Violators would be fined $25.

North Carolina drivers already are prohibited from sending text messages while driving. Drivers under 18 are banned from any phone use.

The local ban is the first of its kind in the state.

The Stark Law Group - which represents George's Towing - last week also released a letter from the North Carolina Attorney General's office that says the Town of Chapel Hill does not have the authority to regulate the use of cell phones by motorists.

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