Monday, May 14, 2001

Senator to revive
traffic measures

Kawamoto gives a C-
to fellow legislators for
killing safety bills

By Lisa Asato

Although the Legislature this session passed a bill that would toughen child safety-seat laws, a key senator said last week legislators deserve a C-minus for their unwillingness to do more for transportation safety.

Senate Transportation Chairman Cal Kawamoto said he is pleased about the booster-seat bill but disappointed that several other bills died. They include a bill that would have required pedestrians to make eye contact with drivers and point at the crosswalk in a 45-degree angle to signal their intention to cross the street.

But he is most upset about a night-driving bill would have required drivers under 18 to be accompanied by a driver 21 or older from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m.

Kawamoto (D, Waipahu-Pearl City) said he intends to revive the night-driving bill next session and name it after Andrew Delos Reyes, one of three Mililani teens killed in an April 12 car crash on Kaukonahua Road.

"It may have saved his life," Kawamoto said. Although the car was driven by an 18-year-old and would not have been subjected to such a law, Kawamoto said, "It would have put into people's minds that night driving is an especially sensitive time for young drivers."

Lawmakers, however, did pass a child safety-seat bill that would require children age 4 to 7 and up to 80 pounds to use a booster seat.

That bill would take effect Jan. 1, pending the governor's approval.

Eric Tash, manager of the Injury Prevention Program of the state Department of Health, said the federal government does not require states to enact child safety-seat laws, but it does make recommendations through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

He said the booster bill would bring Hawaii up to par with those standards.

"We have very good, strong child-seat laws. With the addition (of this bill), we'll have some of the strongest laws in the country," Tash said.

Booster seats are for children who have graduated from child safety seats, propping them up so the lap belt and shoulder strap fit properly.

Already signed into law is an act, effective immediately, that extends the valid period of a temporary driver's permit from 180 days to one year.

That law was needed, Kawamoto said, to give prospective drivers under 18 more time to take required driver-education courses, which are limited because of a lack of certified teachers.

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