Cell-phone ban OK'd


POSTED: Thursday, April 23, 2009

Members of the City Council who were around in 2002, the last time an attempt was made to ban cell-phone use while driving, recall a vastly different atmosphere.





        » Mayor Mufi Hannemann has 10 business days to decide whether to approve Bill 4

» If approved, the new law would take effect July 1.


» Bill 4 would ban the use of mobile electronic devices while driving. Devices include, but are not limited to: cellular phones, text-messaging devices, pagers, personal digital assistants, laptop computers, video-game players and digital cameras. Cell phones would be allowed with a hands-free device.


“;The lobbyists from the phone companies descended on us and lots of folks came in to voice their disapproval,”; Councilman Duke Bainum recalled yesterday. “;It didn't even get out of committee.”;

But now, he added, “;Many accidents and, unfortunately, lives later, we're at a point where the environment is completely different.”;

That was evident yesterday as the Council gave final approval to Bill 4, a measure to ban talking on a cell phone while driving unless a hands-free device is used.

The measure is aimed mostly at stopping activities such as text messaging and video-game playing, but a blanket ban was needed to make the measure enforceable, law enforcement officials said. Under the bill, a police officer would only have to see a driver using a hand-held device, not determine what was being done, to issue a citation.

Bill 4 largely sailed through the legislative process, advancing with little public testimony. It would take effect July 1.

“;The good thing about this is that almost everybody thinks it's a good thing,”; said Councilman Gary Okino.

Some drivers agreed.

“;I think that's absurd to even try to do that while you're driving,”; Makiki resident Sandra Nakashima, 59, said of those who try to send text messages or play video games while driving. “;I think it's a good thing — for safety reasons.”;

Mililani commuter Kristin Anderson joked that “;like everyone else, I think I'm the best driver in the world,”; but conceded the measure was a good step toward public safety.

“;I feel I can drive and use a cell phone, but I know (for) some other people it might be beneficial if they use the hands-free set,”; said Anderson, 29.

Most of those who showed up to testify on the measure during the hearing process were amateur radio operators, who successfully lobbied for an exemption allowing them to use their equipment when at the wheel.

The bill now goes to Mayor Mufi Hannemann for consideration.

Hannemann in February vetoed a measure that specifically would have outlawed text messaging and video-game playing, citing police objections over the enforceability of the ban.

Council members yesterday praised police and the prosecutor's office for working with them in drafting legislation to meet those concerns, meaning Hannemann is likely to sign the measure into law.

“;They were involved in this thing to the last detail to make sure this thing is exactly the way it's going to be most effectively implemented in the community,”; Okino said.

The bill was introduced by Council members Donovan Dela Cruz and Rod Tam.

It was approved 6-1 with Councilman Charles Djou absent. Council Chairman Todd Apo voted against the bill, noting his concerns that it is too broad and would make it illegal to simply be holding a device.