The Maui Police Department, along with the other police departments in Hawaii, will be aggressively enforcing distracted driving violations during the month of April as part of the Distracted Driver Awareness Month. The national enforcement campaign will take place April 10 – 15, 2014. The new slogan for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration regarding distracted driving is “U drive. U text. U pay.”
Distracted driving is any activity that could divert a person’s attention away from the primary task of driving. All distractions endanger driver, passenger and bystander safety. The most common and most dangerous distraction is text messaging, because text messaging requires visual, manual and cognitive attention from the driver. In 2012, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 3,328 people were killed in crashes involving a distracted driver, compared to 3,360 in 2011. An estimated, 421,000 people were injured in motor vehicle crashes involving a distracted driver in 2012, compared to 387,000 people injured in 2011.
In 2013, Maui police issued 2,752 citations for people using a hand held mobile electronic device while driving. So far this year, police have issued 198 citations. In July of last year, Governor Neil Abercrombie signed a bill making distracted driving a statewide law. Before that, each county had enacted their own ordinance addressing this. “We want to make our roads safe for everyone”, said Lt. Ricky Uedoi, Commander of the Traffic Section. “There are three main types of distraction, manual, visual and cognitive. Manual is taking your hands of off the wheel, visual is taking your eyes off the road and cognitive is taking your mind off of driving”.
As part of the Distracted Driver Awareness Month, officers throughout Maui County will be citing motorists who are using a hand held electronic mobile device while operating a motor vehicle. Drivers that are issued a citation will be issued a court appearance date. The fine for a first time violator is not less than $100 and not more than $200 plus court fees. A second offense within a one year period, the fine amount is not less than $200 and not more than $300 plus court fees. Violations that occurs within two years of two prior violations, and for the fourth and each subsequent violation, regardless of when committed, a fine of not less than$300 and not more than $500 plus court fees. Drivers cited within a school or construction zone will be required to pay double the fine amount.
The State law does allow for the use of hands free devices while driving, provided the driver is 18 years of age or older. “Purchasing and using a blue tooth or a head set is much cheaper than a citation, especially since you can use it any time while driving. Just don’t use your phone for texting, checking emails, facebook, twitter and so forth while driving or stopped in traffic. If you need to check for driving conditions or weather related updates, pull into a parking lot where it is safe and check your phone there, not in traffic or on the side of the road where you may pose a hazard to yourself or other motorists,” Uedoi said. “Police intend on changing the behavior of drivers whose habit of using a hand held device while driving is both dangerous and deadly”, said Chief Gary Yabuta.