Honolulu Star-Advertiser

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Kokua Line

Car window memorials illegal if they obstruct driver’s view

Question: What are the rules regarding memorials and advertising on cars? I’ve seen very large text and photo advertising covering cars. They are a visual blight. There are also cars with memorials on the back windshield that are so large they block visibility.

Answer: Regarding written “memorials” for a deceased person typically found on the back windshield: The concern is whether the words obstruct the driver’s “clear view of the road,” said Dennis Kamimura, administrator of the city Motor Vehicle and Licensing Division.

“If it is not transparent and does obstruct the driver’s clear view, then the vehicle is subject to citation and would be cause for safety inspection rejection,” he said.

Kamimura cited state law and Department of Transportation rules, which specify where decals and stickers are to be placed (generally in the lower corners of the windshield).

He also cited Section 15-19.30(a) of the Revised Ordinances of Honolulu: “No person shall drive any motor vehicle with any sign, poster or other nontransparent material upon the front windshield, side wings, or side or rear windows of such vehicle which obstructs the driver’s clear view of the highway or any intersecting highway.”

Even before the vehicle is subject to a safety check, police could cite a vehicle if an officer deems nontransparent wording is obstructing the driver’s view, Kamimura said.

Traffic Violations Bureau records show Honolulu police cited 56 motorists for “material obstructing driver’s view” in 2006; 139 in 2007; 174 in 2008; 185 in 2009; 222 in 2010; and 57 so far this year. Additionally, under the more general “obstructing windshield,” 78 citations were issued in 2006; 65 in 2007; 49 in 2008; 24 in 2009; 36 in 2010; and 11 so far in 2011.

Violators face a $72 fine.

Meanwhile, the state’s vehicular advertising law — Section 445-112.5 of the Hawaii Revised Statutes — prohibits advertising on vehicles, but only if the vehicle “is used primarily to display” advertising.

“In other words,” explained Bob Loy, the Outdoor Circle’s director of environmental programs, “if the commercial advertising is displayed on a vehicle that is used primarily for delivery of products or for personal use or other ‘primary’ purposes, it is not a violation.”

The organization was instrumental in getting the law passed in 2006 but acknowledged the “huge loophole that allows a lot of inappropriate advertising in Hawaii.”

As an example, he said, “That’s why it is not illegal for a company like Red Bull to pay someone to drive a personal vehicle wrapped in advertising,” or for businesses to hang large banners from parked vehicles or to put advertising on commercial trolleys.

The Outdoor Circle regularly receives complaints about mobile ads, but in most cases they’re not illegal. “We know of no prosecutions for violations of the vehicle advertising law,” Loy said.

Still, he noted, before the law was passed five years ago, “there were a few ‘billboard’ trucks in town whose sole purpose was to display advertising. They quickly were taken out of service and shipped off island.”

Billboard trucks and trailers remain “a huge industry” on the mainland, so, “the main benefit of the narrow Hawaii law is that it stopped the terrible mobile billboard industry in its tracks before it got a solid foothold in Hawaii.”

In the future, he said, the Outdoor Circle hopes to convince lawmakers to strengthen the law.


Mahalo to managers Clyde Ham and Marlene Kanoa at Longs Drugs in Mililani Marketplace for helping me with a traumatic incident with a can of Coke. Never did I expect foreign matter in it. Auwe to the two boys who entered my home and stole my earrings, Aloha Airlines watch and irreplaceable rings. People saw you. Remember: What goes around comes around.

— Grace T.

Write to “Kokua Line” at Honolulu Star-Advertiser, 7 Waterfront Plaza, Suite 210, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., Honolulu 96813; call 529-4773; fax 529-4750; or email kokualine@staradvertiser.com.

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