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StarBulletin.com

Police did not break law in runaway-ramp stop


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POSTED: Friday, July 17, 2009

Question: I got a speeding ticket from a motorcycle cop who was stationed by the truck runaway ramp on Pali Highway, Kailua bound. There are two signs posted there that read, “;No stopping or standing, tow away zone”; and another big yellow sign that reads “;Truck runaway ramp.”; I did point this out to the officer, but he pointed about 10 feet away from us, saying the ramp started there. But what if an emergency happened and you are getting a ticket there? Everyone would have been cleaned out. I would like to know whether the police can issue tickets there.

Answer: Even though you showed us photos of your car being stopped right next to the “;No stopping or standing, tow away zone”; sign, with the runaway ramp in the background, the Honolulu Police Department maintains the officers weren't violating any rule or law.

“;Speeding is an ongoing concern in this area, and officers use their judgment in picking locations that are safe for both themselves and drivers,”; was the response from HPD's Traffic Division.

While it doesn't appear prudent to be stopping people in front of the runaway ramp, let alone next to the “;no stopping”; sign, traffic officials say the no-stopping restriction does not apply to stalled vehicles or officers conducting traffic enforcement.

In this case, HPD says, the officers were not parked on the ramp, and “;the citation was issued down the road.”;

Question: Does the hands-free cell phone ban only apply to “;common”; drivers? Are police exempted? On my way home in Kaimuki one day, I saw a police officer in his blue-and-white holding his cell phone to his ear as he was driving down Harding Avenue, crossing 6th Avenue.

Answer: Yes, police are exempt from the city's new law banning hand-held “;mobile electronic devices”; if they are “;performing official duties”; while driving.

So are other on-duty emergency responders, such as firefighters and emergency medical technicians, said Michelle Yu, spokeswoman for the Honolulu Police Department.

Also exempt are drivers who use two-way radios for work, such as bus and taxi drivers, as well as ham radio operators, who routinely test their radios for use during islandwide emergencies and disasters, she said.

“;Common”; drivers are allowed to use their cell phones to call 911 in an emergency. Case in point: Alim Shabazz, whose wife, Cydney, gave birth as he was driving her to Kapiolani Medical Center on July 2. The 911 operator offered advice as a healthy Alia Shabazz was born in the car.