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Text-messaging bill elicits mayor's veto


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POSTED: Friday, February 13, 2009

Mayor Mufi Hannemann vetoed a bill that would have banned Oahu motorists from text messaging on cell phones or playing video games while driving, saying the law would have been almost impossible to enforce.

Hannemann, in a letter to the City Council yesterday, agreed with law enforcement officials that the ban is too specific and makes it difficult to distinguish text messaging or playing video games from other functions.

However, Hannemann said he supports a more restrictive ban on cell phones for motorists.

“;I applaud the Council's intent to address this public safety matter,”; Hannemann wrote. “;A police officer operating a motor vehicle will only have a second or two to determine if the driver is committing a violation by text messaging or playing a video game.”;

The City Council approved the bill in a 7-1 vote last week, securing enough votes to override a veto.

Councilman Charles Djou, who aggressively lobbied for the bill, said he intends to push for an override.

“;The facts are as they stood two weeks ago,”; Djou said. “;The Council should override, and the only reason a Council member should change one's mind is politics.”;

The lone dissenting vote was from Councilman Rod Tam, who pushed for legislation that would ban the use of cell phones altogether while driving unless using a hands-free device.

During several City Council meetings, officials from the Honolulu Prosecutor's Office and Honolulu Police Department told members that the ban would be too specific. However, they said a more comprehensive ban would be easier to enforce.

In his letter, Hannemann said he would support a bill already introduced that would ban motorists from using their phones.

“;The police contend that this total prohibition would be more enforceable and acceptable ... and I agree,”; Hannemann said.

The state is also considering measures that would ban the use of cell phones while driving; however, similar bills have failed several times in the past.