Hawaii County Police Cell Phone Ban Reminder

The Hawaiʻi Police Department is reminding the public about a county law that limits the use of cell phones while driving.

County Ordinance 09-82A makes it illegal to use a cell phone or other mobile electronic device while driving—except with a hands-free mechanism. The ordinance took effect nearly two years ago, on January 1, 2010.

The ban includes but is not limited to:

  • cell phones.
  • text messaging devices.
  • paging devices.
  • personal digital assistants.
  • laptop computers.
  • video games.
  • digital cameras.

The fine for violating the ordinance starts at $97 and can go up to as much as $500 if the use of a mobile electronic device causes a collision.

Between January 1, 2010, and November 22, 2011, police issued 1,959 citations for use of a mobile electronic device while operating a motor vehicle and 38 for causing an accident while using such a device.

Chief Harry S. Kubojiri said officers continue to make enforcement of this ordinance as high a priority as enforcement of other serious traffic laws. “It is designed to reduce driver distraction and make our roadways safer,” Kubojiri said. “Texting or holding a cell phone while talking can lead to tragic consequences for innocent motorists and pedestrians, as well as for the offending driver.”

The law does not apply to:

emergency responders using a mobile electronic device in the performance of their job.
drivers using two-way radios for work-related duties.
drivers holding a valid amateur radio operator license issued by the FCC and using half-duplex two-way radio.

It does not include audio equipment or equipment installed in a vehicle to provide navigation or emergency assistance to the driver, or video entertainment for back-seat passengers.

According to the ordinance, the use of a cell phone to make an emergency 911 call shall be an “affirmative defense.” That means it is not illegal to make a 911 call on a cell phone but a driver who claims to have been doing so might still be cited and have to prove that a legitimate 911 call was made.

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