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Honolulu City Council Considers Bill to Prohibit Use of Cell Phones in Crosswalks

Wayne Yoshioka

City lawmakers will be voting Wednesday to advance a bill that could ban the use of mobile electronic devices in certain instances for safety reasons.  HPR’s Wayne Yoshioka reports.

Bill 6, if signed into law, would prohibit the use of mobile electronic devices - including cell phones -  while crossing a street or highway. 

Pedestrians could be cited if they are holding and looking in the direction of the device.   Viewing would be considered a violation.  Major Kerry Inouye is commander of the Honolulu Police Department’s Traffic Division.

“The Honolulu Police Department supports this bill.  We believe that pedestrian safety and traffic safety, in general, is a shared responsibility and requires a collaborative effort .  Also when pedestrians commit violations of the law or hazardous acts it also endangers other pedestrians and motorists.”

Inouye said enforcement could be an issue but obtaining evidence is not insurmountable.

“Normally, when we investigate as collision, the parties involved don’t readily admit, ‘Yes, I was using an electronic device.  So we have to rely on a witness or some reason to believe that a mobile electronic device was used.  And in those cases, even if we have a witness who says, “Yes, a mobile electronic device was used.”  It would require a search warrant to do a forensic examination of the device so that would probably be reserved for on the more serious cases involving death or serious bodily injury.”

Violators who are cited would be fined between 15 and one hundred dollars for the first offense; up to 200 for a second and up to 500 dollars for a third offense within a year.   The use of hand-held electronic devices while operating a motor vehicle - including cell phones, laptop computers or video games - is already prohibited.

(Traffic noise)  Meanwhile, in downtown Honolulu, Kiana Santana, says she texts throughout the day, sometimes in a crosswalk, but supports the bill.

“It will be instrumental in keeping people safe.  I mean a lot of people do it and it doesn’t seem like a big deal but, then, you don’t realize how unaware you are of your surroundings when you’re doing it.  I mean, we’d love to think the crosswalk is a safe place but accidents can happen.   You know, you’re putting your life at risk when you’re not paying attention.”

Jeff Smith commutes daily through the downtown area on the bus.

“When you’re in the bus, looking around and watching people driving is just a natural habit.  And, so many people are texting and driving whether its Facebook, the news – you know no one’s paying attention and I see it every single day.   I feel much safer on the bus because I see people not paying attention all the time.”

According to HPD, more than 10-thousand citations were issued last year for mobile electronic device violations.  Honolulu City Councilmember, Brandon Elefante, introduced the bill and also chairs the Public Health Safety and Welfare Committee.

“We want a fairness to all not just for motor vehicle drivers but to pedestrians, cyclists, even those on mopeds which this bill will cover.  So it’s definitely a paradigm shift to how we view things.  But what’s important is safety.”

The bill now goes to the full City Council,Wednesday, for the second of three required approvals.     Wayne Yoshioka, HPR News.

Wayne Yoshioka
Wayne Yoshioka is an award-winning journalist who has worked in television, print and radio in Hawaiʻi. He also has been on both sides of politics as a state departmental appointee and political/government reporter. He covered Hurricane Iwa (1982) as a TV reporter; was the State Department of Defense/Civil Defense spokesperson for Hurricane Iniki (1992); and, commanded a public affairs detachment in Afghanistan (2006). He has a master's degree in Communication from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa and is a decorated combat veteran (Legion of Merit, Bronze Star and 22 other commendation/service medals). He resides in Honolulu.
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