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Governor signs statewide ban on drivers' use of hand-held mobile devices

By Amy Busek

POSTED: 01:24 p.m. HST, May 20, 2013

Gov. Neil Abercrombie signed into law today a bill to ban drivers from using handheld cell phones and other electronic devices while driving.

"While all counties have some form of a distracted driving ordinance in place, this measure establishes a state law that creates consistent requirements across all counties for the use of mobile electronic devices while driving and will simplify enforcement," Abercrombie said in a news release. 

A second bill, Senate Bill 4, extends the seat-belt usage requirement to back seat passengers.

The ceremony at the state Capitol marked the start of the statewide Click It or Ticket campaign, a Senate news release said.

House Bill 980 establishes a state law on the use of electronic devices while driving. It takes the place of similar county bans. People may still use hands-free devices, except drivers under 18.

The bill was created to foster a safer driving environment in the islands, said Sen. J. Kalani English, chairman of the Senate Committee on Transportation and International Affairs.

Exceptions include 911 calls and calls by emergency responders.

“Hawaii is putting safety first on our roadways with the enactment of our state’s universal seat belt law; this measure closes the gap in protecting all passengers riding in a motor vehicle,” Abercrombie said. “In addition, the enactment of Hawaii’s distracted driving law establishes consistency across the state for the usage of mobile electronic devices while driving, simplifying enforcement and likewise making our highways and roadways safer.”

“By providing consistent statewide requirements for the use of mobile electronic devices while driving, we are telling drivers that using a mobile device while driving is dangerous and unacceptable,” English said.

Representatives of the Honolulu Police Department, the National Highway Traffic Safety Adminstration, the Health Department and the Transportation Department adressed the press conference regarding the significance and importance of the two bills. Region 9 administrator David Manning from the U.S. Department of Transportation cited Hawaii’s high seat belt usage statistics, while police Capt. Darrin Izumo said more than 8,000 seat belt citations were given in 2012, showing a need for increased seat belt usage in the state.

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Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly said the ban on hands-free devices would apply to all drivers; it applies to drivers under 18.

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