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Beef up bill to ban cell use while driving


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POSTED: Saturday, February 28, 2009

THE City Council's thumbs-down on overriding a veto of a feeble bill to ban motorists from text-messaging or playing video games gives members a chance for a do-over on the matter.

Since Council members say the reason they allowed the veto to stand was to pass stronger legislation, they should get working on it and fully prohibit the use of mobile electronic devices, especially cell phones, while driving.

The legislation should not be Bill 4, the measure the Council has pending, which would still allow using a device as long as it isn't being held in a driver's hand. That would be a mistake. According to several studies, it is the mental distractions of mobile devices that make driving risky, not holding an instrument.

The Council always has been a collective that reserved the right to change its mind. Having forcefully approved the vetoed bill last month, the Council submissively backed away from the override. One reason members gave was that the ban would have been difficult to enforce, but Council members knew that when they passed the bill.

The difference this time was Mayor Mufi Hannemann's disapproval, the Council's withdrawal an affirmation of the mayor's influence in lining up his allies.

Hannemann, who called the vetoed bill “;flawed”; and “;a half-baked manapua”; says he supports Bill 4. While it is a step up from the previous measure, it, too, is not fully cooked.