Chapel Hill in North Carolina has passed a bill that calls for a total cell phone ban for all motorists, effective 1 June because of their pernicious role in distracted driving.
This makes Chapel Hill the first town in the United States to ban hands-free use of cell phones. Motorists also will be banned from using on-board wireless systems in vehicles – another first-of-its-kind law.
Cell phone use and its major role in the deadly distracted driving epidemic has been a controversial issue in recent years. Distracted driving gained further attention when the National Transportation Safety Board last November became the first government organization to recommend all 50 states and D.C. completely ban the use of portable electronic devices for all motorists. The National Safety Council called for a total ban in January 2009.
“In passing a total ban, Chapel Hill has taken a significant step toward making their roads safer,” said Janet Froetscher, president and CEO at NSC. “Research shows hand-free devices offer drivers no safety benefit. Passing total cell phone bans – that include handheld and hands-free use – makes our roads safer. We praise Chapel Hill for this action. It will save lives.”
The national Highway Traffic Safety Administration – in a specious states’ rights argument that goes back to before the Civil War and slavery – is forbidden by Congress from regulating drivers on a national basis, that power is reserved for the individual states, whose legislators show little interest in outlawing the demonstrably dangerous devices in automobiles.
More than 30 studies that show hands-free devices do not offer any safety benefit because they do not eliminate the distraction to the brain. Simply put, the brain is incapable of processing two demanding thinking tasks – talking on a cell phone and driving – simultaneously.
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