NC town bans all cell phone use while driving

(CBS News) - The town council in Chapel Hill N.C., Monday night got just enough votes to ban the use of cell phones while driving. The law had been debated for two years, and barely passed.

"This is a safety and welfare issue for our town," said council member Penny Rich. "And that is why I support this."

Beginning in June, drivers caught breaking the new law will be fined $25. Police can only charge drivers when they're stopped for something else first. There's an exception for emergency calls, and calls with a spouse, parent or child.

Chapel Hill's law goes further than any other in the country. No state bans all cell phone use. Nine make it illegal for drivers. Thirty states make most teens from talking on the phone while driving.

"I really have to salute Chapel Hill for the leadership role they've taken in this debate," said the National Transportation Safety Board's Deborah Hersman. She led the charge last year when the government agency called for a nationwide ban on all cell phones while driving. "We know that you can save lives and prevent injuries if you hang up."

Dave Cotton runs his disaster response company, responding to emergencies in Chapel Hill, from his car. "When a disaster happens, the phone rings," he said.

Cotton calls his cell phone his lifeline, which is why he doesn't like the decision. "I respect the fact that they've got a ban," Cotton said. "But not when you get to the situation where you can't even use a Bluetooth."

He wonders how far they'll take the law. "If my GPS is on my cell phone, I mean, is that illegal too?"

  • Chip Reid

    Chip Reid is CBS News' national correspondent.

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