Chapel Hill Police Department and the UNC-Chapel Hill Department of Public Safety will kick off the Distracted Driving Awareness Campaign on Wednesday, Feb. 15.
The Town of Chapel Hill is considering a proposed ordinance to ban talking on hand-held cellphones and hands-free cellphones—or both—while driving on town streets. In conjunction with the proposed ordinance, the council asked that a program be developed to educate the public about the dangers of driving while talking or texting on cell phones. A public hearing on the proposed ordinance is scheduled for 7 p.m. Monday, Feb. 20, in the Council Chamber of Chapel Hill Town Hall.
Drivers who use hand-held devices are four times as likely to get into crashes serious enough to injure themselves. Younger, inexperienced drivers younger than 20 years old have the highest proportion of distraction-related fatal crashes. In addition, studies show that texting while driving can delay a driver's reaction time just as severely as having a blood alcohol content of a legally drunk driver.
Studies show that there is no difference in the risks between hands-free and hand-held cell phone conversations, both of which can result in inattention blindness, which occurs when the brain isn't seeing what is clearly visible because the drivers' focus is on the phone conversation and not on the road.
There are simple measures drivers can take to minimize distractions in the vehicle:
• Turn off phone or put it out of reach before starting the car.
• Alert callers of inability to take calls when driving by changing voicemail message.
• Make it a point not to call or text anyone who may be driving, such as during the commute to and from work or school, especially parents calling teen drivers.
• If there is a need to make an important call or respond to a text message, pull over to a safe place to do so.
For more information about the Distracted Driving Awareness Campaign, contact Catherine Lazorko, public information officer for the Town of Chapel Hill, at (919) 969-5055 or firstname.lastname@example.org.