Despite threat of big fine, drivers can't put down their cell phones

Despite threat of big fine, drivers can't put down their cell phones

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Even with the threat of a hefty fine, thousands of Oahu drivers continue to talk or text while driving.

And some of them are getting busted for just handling their cell phones.

Driver Ben Maes was cited for handling his smart phone while his car was in motion. He picked it up to check the GPS.

"A motorcycle policeman drove next to me, saw the phone in my hand and pulled in back of me and pulled me over," he said.

Driver Samer Abdeljawad was cited for grabbing his cell phone to look at the clock while he was driving.

"I don't wear a watch and I rely on my phone to see what time it is," he said.

Both men weren't talking or texting, but they did violate the state's ban on drivers using mobile electronic devices (which includes tablets and iPods).

"Those are things that you would be touching with your hands. It's a ticketable offense," said Tatsuyuki Kobayashi, owner of Koby's Driving School.

So far this year, 6,871 citations have been handed out to Oahu drivers for breaking the cell phone law.  Last year, Honolulu police handed out 11,651 distracted driving tickets, the most since the cell phone law went into effect.

And since it became law in 2013, Honolulu police have written 37,636 tickets.

Maes and Abdeljawad said their citations cost $297 apiece.

All told since 2014, the state has collected about $6.35 million in fines from Oahu drivers guilty of violating the mobile electronics law.

Kobayashi said you're even in violation if you talk or text while parked on the side of the road with the engine running.

"That's still considered the car is in motion or ready for motion," he said.

Maes went to court, admitted guilt, but explained he wasn't aware that even touching his phone could get him cited.

The judge dismissed the case with prejudice.

Abdeljawad said he's learned a lesson but admits it's hard to break the habit.

"I think we are so attached to our cell phones to the point that were willing to pay the fines," he said.

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