As noted by CBS News recently, town officials in Chapel Hill, North Carolina voted to ban all mobile phone use while operating a vehicle. This includes a ban on hands-free use within an automobile as well as using a smartphone to access the Internet while driving. Texting while driving was already prohibited by North Carolina state law. Beginning at the start of June 2012, anyone caught using a cell phone while driving will be issued a $25 fine. However, police will not actively pursue a driver that ‘s seen talking on a cell phone while driving. If the driver is speeding or commits another violation while talking on a mobile phone, a ticket will be issued for the offense.

Chapel Hill drivers can use a phone while driving to call emergency services such as the police, the fire department or an ambulance. Drivers are also exempt from a ticket if they can prove they were calling a “parent, child, legal guardian or spouse.” The ordinance will be enforced on all streets across Chapel Hill including state-owned roads. Chapel Hill has nearly 60,000 residents and is home to a popular college, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. 

The National Safety Council issued a statement earlier today praising the actions of the town council in Chapel Hill. President and CEO Janet Froetscher stated “In passing a total ban, Chapel Hill has taken a significant step toward making their roads safer. 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.“ Last year, a study conducted by the Governors Highway Safety Association last year found that hands-free cell phone usage was just as dangerous as holding the cell phone up to the ear while driving.