Kokua Line

June Watanabe

HPD officers should not
stop motorists randomly

Question: Recently, an officer in a Honolulu Police Department car appeared to be ticketing vehicles at random on Kuhio Avenue. I was one of them. I was going home from work at the time -- early in the morning -- when he pulled me over.

When I first saw him, his car was parked. He didn't question me except to ask for my driver's license and registration. When he returned, he made me sign three citations before saying what the violations were. Is that right?

They were for equipment defects: My headlamps were not white enough, my tint was too dark (I have those child static-cling tints), and my shocks didn't bounce "two inches" when I drive over potholes, resulting in me not having a required "recon" decal. He did not show me the tint test results nor why my headlamps were not "white enough." And why do cars have to bounce over potholes going 20 mph? At the end, he had already set a court date for me to appear. Is that right? I thought that I could send in a written statement. This seems so unfair.

Answer: If the violations you were cited for are considered traffic "crimes," then you have no recourse but to show up in court.

If they were "infractions," then you have three options: pay the ticket, appear in person on the noted court date or submit a written statement to the court within 15 days from the date of issue, said Carol Nakagami, manager of the Traffic Violations Bureau.

If you submit a written statement, you will be notified by mail of the judge's decision. If the decision goes against you, you have 30 days in which to contest the decision and ask for a hearing.

All this information -- including whether your court appearance is mandatory -- is explained on the citation, Nakagami said.

If you would like more information, call the Traffic Violations Bureau at 538-5500.

Police officials were puzzled by your account of what happened, but without knowing who the officer was or without more details, they could only give a general statement.

Foremost, officers are not supposed to pull motorists over randomly, said Sgt. Robert Lung, of HPD's Traffic Division.

"Police do not pull over just for the sake of pulling over people," he said, noting that the officer must have observed some kind of violation.

Regarding the pothole, "technically, there is no reconstruction law that says your car has to bounce so high ... but I don't know exactly what (you're) cited for, so it's hard to tell."

Regarding not showing you the meter readings, Lung said there is no law that requires an officer to show the reading.

"We do it as a matter of courtesy," such as with a radar gun tracking speed, he said, although most officers will voluntarily show a reading.

The usual procedure when an officer stops someone is that he or she will say why that person was stopped, then ask to see a driver's license, vehicle registration and no-fault insurance card, Lung said.

After that, an officer will usually say what he is citing you for, then go back to write the citation(s). After an officer hands over the citation, he will ask you to sign it, as required by law, to acknowledge receipt, Lung said. Some people do refuse to sign a citation, at which point the officer will note "refusal to sign," he said. Refusing to sign, however, does not bring any additional penalty.

Q: I recently returned from the mainland, and was so uncomfortable in my coach seat. Because I traveled on three different carriers, I noticed a big difference in seat width and distance between seats for leg room. It would seem the seat is designed for someone under 5 feet with very short legs. What or who regulates seat dimensions, or is the public just at the mercy of the carriers? Also, where can one complain when the carriers seem to offer deaf ears to complaints about seat size? Even first-class seats seem to have shrunk.

A: There is no industry or government requirement that airline seats be a certain width or that the distance between seats (known as seat pitch and referring to the distance from seat back to seat back) be a certain length.

Seat widths for coach travel among U.S. airlines generally are a little over 17 inches (going as high as 18.5 inches), while seat pitch generally runs about 31-32 inches (or 33-34 inches, if you're lucky). You're advised to check with individual airlines because those figures may vary from plane to plane and airline to airline.

You can file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Transportation's Aviation Consumer Protection Division, which accepts "informal" complaints from consumers about airline travel, although it does not get involved in mediating any disputes.

We checked its categories of complaints and found nothing mentioning cramped seating.

But, it can't hurt to voice your displeasure, since the Aviation Consumer Protection Division does enter all complaints into a computerized monitoring system. It then issues a monthly Air Travel Consumer Report, which it distributes to the industry, the news media and general public "so that consumers and air travel companies can compare the complaint records of individual airlines and tour operators. These complaints are reviewed to determine the extent to which carriers are in compliance with federal aviation consumer protection regulations. This system also serves as a basis for rule making, legislation and research."

Consumers can call, write or e-mail the ACPD to register concerns about airline service: Phone 202-366-2220 or, for TTY, 202-366-0511 to record your complaint (calls are not returned); write to Aviation Consumer Protection Division, U.S. Department of Transportation, 400 7th St. SW, Washington, DC 20590; or e-mail

If you have a complaint or concern about airline safety or security, you should call the Federal Aviation Administration at toll-free 800-255-1111.


Useful phone numbers

Got a question or complaint?
Call 529-4773, fax 529-4750, or write to Kokua Line,
Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., No. 7-210,
Honolulu 96813. As many as possible will be answered.
E-mail to


E-mail to City Desk

Text Site Directory:
[News] [Business] [Features] [Sports] [Editorial] [Do It Electric!]
[Classified Ads] [Search] [Subscribe] [Info] [Letter to Editor]
© 2003 Honolulu Star-Bulletin --