Army enacts car cell phone ban
The new safety policy signed on Nov. 7 applies to drivers on all its Hawaii bases
THE ARMY has banned the use of cell phones by drivers at all of its Hawaii bases, a policy that includes headsets and hands-free devices.
It's a policy that state lawmakers shied away from adopting this past legislative session.
The policy memorandum was signed on Nov. 7 by Maj. Gen. Benjamin Mixon, commanding general of the 25th Infantry Division, whose jurisdiction covers Army posts that include Schofield Barracks, Tripler Army Medical Center and Fort Shafter.
Stefanie Gardin, Army spokeswoman, said Mixon's cell phone ban centered on "safety."
"Every day, thousands of soldiers and civilians are on our streets," Gardin said. "Whether they're drivers or pedestrians, they have a right to the safest environment possible. The new cell phone policy helps ensure their safety by limiting additional distractions to motorists."
The policy applies to military personnel as well as to civilians, visitors and contractors who are allowed to drive on Army posts. Under the Army policy, violators will lose their driving privileges.
"First, that does not mean an individual would lose access to post, only that he or she would no longer be able to drive on post," Gardin said. "Second, loss of driving privileges is not necessarily the maximum punishment, but it is one of the more severe punishments."
There is no cell phone usage ban while driving on Navy and Air Force bases here. A spokeswoman at the Marine Corps Base at Kaneohe Bay said drivers are allowed to make cell phone calls while driving if they are using a hands-free device.
SIGNS OUTLINING the Marine Corps policy are posted at the gates to the Kaneohe base.
Earlier this year, the Senate contemplated a similar ban, but would have allowed the use of hands-free devices. However, cell phone companies and others opposed the ban and no legislative action was taken.
State Sen. Colleen Hanabusa (D, Waianae) said yesterday that the bill is not dead and "will be heard again next year. It is still alive, especially after that accident where a person was text messaging while driving."
Police said a head-on crash on Kalanianaole Highway on Nov. 4 occurred when a man trying to text-message on his cell phone drifted into the oncoming lane, colliding with a pickup truck.
She said the bill was tabled "to get a better feel during the interim. We wanted to know whether it was more distracting than people eating while they are driving."
Hanabusa said that since then, she has talked to several student leaders who have shared their concerns about the use of cell phones by drivers.
At least 11 states and the District of Columbia restrict cell phone use among young drivers, and some ban hand-held cell phones completely, according to the National Transportation Safety Board. The states with restrictions on wireless communications while driving are Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Tennessee and Texas.