Cell-phone ban will be a good first step


POSTED: Saturday, April 11, 2009

TALKING on a hand-held cell phone while driving should soon be illegal on Oahu following expected approval by the City Council later this month. Mayor Mufi Hannemann should sign the bill into law, putting Honolulu in line with six states, the District of Columbia, numerous municipalities and 40 countries.

The National Safety Council has determined that drivers using cell phones are four times more likely to be involved in a traffic accident, regardless of whether the phone is hand-held. However, the ban on hand-held phones is a good start that next year's Legislature should extend throughout the state.

The bill approved on Thursday by a Council committee also would prohibit the use of all electronic mobile devices while driving, intended to stop text messaging and video-game playing. A bill sponsored by Councilman Charles Djou that would have been limited to banning text messaging was rightly vetoed by Hannemann in February as unenforceable.

The mayor said he agrees with police that the “;total prohibition”; in the current version “;would be more enforceable and acceptable.”; It allows some exceptions for emergency personnel and drivers using two-way radios on the job.

The bill should not encourage drivers to trade in their hand-held cell phones for hands-free devices in the belief the latter is safe. The use of either kind of cell phones is distracting, causing the driver to concentrate on the conversation rather than the road. Studies have shown that use of a cell phone—hand-held or hands-free—while driving is as dangerous as driving drunk.