Cell phone limits expected


POSTED: Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The City Council is poised to approve a proposal banning the use of cell phones and other mobile devices while driving when it takes up the measure at its regular meeting tomorrow.

“;I fully expect that it will be passed,”; said Councilman Gary Okino, chairman of the Council's Transportation and Planning Committee.

Bill 4 proposes a blanket ban on the use of all mobile electronic devices, including cell phones.

Phone calls would be allowed if a hands-free device were used, but callers would not be allowed to hold the phone while making the call.

The broad language has raised concern among some, including Council Chairman Todd Apo.

“;I think it's bad,”; he said. “;You basically get cited for a moving violation for holding something in your hand.”;

Apo has proposed an amendment specifying cell phone use would be illegal only if the device were held up to a caller's ear. Text messaging, video game playing and similar activities still would be banned at all times.

The proposed amendment has run into opposition from police and prosecutors, who say it would make the bill unenforceable.

Similar opposition led to Mayor Mufi Hannemann's veto in February of a bill specifically banning text messaging and video game playing while driving. At the time of his veto, Hannemann said he could support a more restrictive ban because it would address enforceability questions.

The broader language means police officers would not have to prove what a driver was doing, just that the driver was using a mobile device.

Okino said he believes Apo's amendment faces similar opposition from the Council.

“;Basically, most of the members don't support it because I don't think it's enforceable,”; Okino said. “;Somebody can be holding the thing and still texting, and there's no way to tell they were texting. They can always say, 'Oh, I was just talking on my speakerphone.' It just totally undermines the law.”;

Apo argues other activities such as programming a GPS device or tuning a radio are just as distracting while driving but still would be allowed under Bill 4.

“;What is the problem we're trying to solve?”; Apo said. “;If it's having two hands on the wheel, there's a lot of other things that we ought to be making illegal.”;

Bill 4 includes exceptions for emergency personnel, individuals such as taxi and bus drivers using two-way radios while on duty and licensed amateur radio operators. Emergency 911 calls would be allowed at all times.




Last chance to testify tomorrow


        Tomorrow is the last chance for the public to testify before the City Council on Bill 4, a proposal to ban the use of all mobile electronic devices while driving. Those devices include cell phones, text-messaging devices, pagers, personal digital assistants, laptop computers, video game players and digital cameras.

The City Council session begins at 10 a.m. at Honolulu Hale.


Anyone wishing to testify may register in person, call 768-3813 or fax written statements to 768-3826.


Testimony also may be submitted online at www.honolulu.gov/council/attnspkccl.htm.