Public Safety & Justice

Localities Can't Pass Distracted Driving Laws, North Carolina Court Rules

June 16, 2014
 

The North Carolina Supreme Court has struck down the state's first local ordinance banning people from using cellphones while driving.

The high court on Thursday ruled unanimously that state laws regulate highways and roads and that prohibits the town of Chapel Hill's enforcement of the cellphone ban.

The court also struck down parts of a separate town ordinance regulating towing. Judges said the town could not cap towing fees or prevent towing companies from passing credit card fees on to consumers.

George King, who runs a Chapel Hill towing business, sued the town in 2012 challenging both laws. King said he could not obey the town's towing laws without breaking its cellphone ban. The town had required tow-truck operators to notify police before moving a vehicle and return calls from vehicle owners within 15 minutes.

"We're very pleased," said Thomas Stark, the attorney for George King. "It was a well-reasoned decision."

The court argued that the town over-stepped its authority in prohibiting people from talking on a cell phone or using cell phone technology while driving. It noted that there are already state laws prohibiting bus and commercial vehicle drivers — as well as drivers under 18 — from using a cell phone while operating a vehicle.

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