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Bus ban on phone ringers not enough, some contend


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POSTED: Saturday, February 21, 2009

A city law that bans cell phone ringers on city buses was meant to eliminate the startling distractions but falls short of a more annoying problem: people talking on their phones, some drivers and riders of TheBus say.

“;It's not the ringing; it's the talking,”; said Kal Faurot, TheBus driver for five years. “;Once they get the phone in their ear, they're unaware of all the things they should be aware of.”;

Riders talking on their phones forget to grab the handles and stumble when the bus moves, putting themselves in danger, Faurot said. Outlawing cell phones on TheBus would be more effective, he said.

Despite the city rule's shortcomings, some riders and drivers support it, even as other riders ignore it.

In 2006 the city prohibited sound-producing electronic devices—such as walkie-talkies, radios and cell phone ringers—on TheBus. The ban on sound-producing devices falls under a city ordinance that also prohibits eating and drinking on the bus and bringing live animals aboard.

A ringing cell phone becomes a finable offense if a bus driver tells a person to turn off the ringing phone and the person refuses. Violators can be fined $100 and jailed for 10 days.

In the two years since the law has taken effect, no one has been cited for breaking it, state Judiciary spokeswoman Marsha Kitagawa said in an e-mail.

Although statistics are unavailable, complaints about the noise have fallen, said Roger Morton, general manager of Oahu Transit Services, which operates TheBus.

“;We haven't had anyone hauled away to the caboose yet because of a loud cell phone,”; Morton said.

The rule is useful for drivers because they can cite the law to the riders when bothered by a cell phone ringing, he said.

As a reminder, TheBus has put up signs and an audio announcement about the noise ban.

Kalihi resident Jason Ganitano, 22, keeps his cell phone on vibrate. He was not aware there was a cell phone ringer ban on TheBus. He hears phones ringing on the bus and said they wake up riders who are getting rest.

Riders should not talk on their cell phones anyway, he said.

“;Sometimes you don't want to hear it, and they swear a lot,”; he said.

One driver of TheBus, who declined to give his name, said the ringer ban seemed to reduce cell phones ringing on TheBus, but he would “;love”; a cell phone ban.

“;It's a distraction,”; he said. “;Loud conversation—that's the irritating part now.”;