LOS ANGELES, CALIF. — Just days after North Carolina Superior Court Judge Orlando Hudson issued an injunction delaying the enforcement of Chapel Hill, N.C.’s ban on using a cell phone while in a vehicle, a new bill to amend title 23, United States Code, now threatens to restrict mobile phone usage nationwide.
The federal ban would include any usage, including hands-free devices such as headset or a speakerphone built into a car. The proposed legislation further mandates that mobile phones be stored in the trunk, or other area inaccessible to the occupants. It would be prohibited for drivers or passengers to possess cellular phones inside a vehicle at anytime, even while parked.
If the law passes, vehicles with integrated phone systems would be required to have them removed or disabled.
After introducing the new bill on Monday, Congresswoman Debbie Polaski stated in a press conference that, “cell phone usage in vehicles causes injuries and deaths and it is time we saved some lives.”
Garry Sampson, owner of Sampson’s Towing & Recovery, sued the Town of Chapel Hill over the local ordinance stating that, “its tow truck operators must use their phones to respond to inquiries regarding vehicles that have been towed and need to be released, and to call the police department to report illegally parked vehicles that they have towed.”
In his order, Hudson found Sampson must be able to use a mobile phone to comply with the town’s current towing regulations and to perform his business. The N.C. Attorney General, Jerry Marstel, had also officially advised the town of Chapel Hill that the state, not the town, has the “preemptive authority to regulate cell phone use by motorists in North Carolina.”
While other municipalities around the country have proposed or enacted laws to regulate cell phone use while driving, Chapel Hill, N.C. was the first town to attempt a complete ban.
The National Traffic Safety Administration has stated that mobile phone usage while driving can delay reaction time similar to having a blood alcohol concentration of .16, which is double the legal limit in most states.
If passed, the new law would apply nationwide, superseding state regulations and making it illegal to have a cell phone inside the cabin area of a vehicle at anytime.