Drivers beware: State seeks to triple fines for distracted driving

Drivers beware: State seeks to triple fines for distracted driving

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Fines for distracted driving offenses would triple, under several bills before lawmakers.

The state Department of Transportation is pushing the measures as a deterrent to dangerous driving.

Last year, 120 people died on Hawaii's highways. And the state believes three-fourths of them could have been prevented.

"We need to see what we can do to make sure that somebody can look at the rules and say, 'If I break them the penalties are so stiff I'd rather follow the rules,'"state Highways deputy Director Ed Sniffen said.

Here's what's being proposed:

  • A first offense for excessive speeding would jump from $500 to $1,500
  • A first offense for drunk driving would leap from $150 to $450
  • And getting ticketed for talking on a cell phone while driving would get you a $750 ticket, or a $900 fine if ticketed near schools or construction zones.

Attorney Pat McPherson thinks just increasing fines won't stop people from breaking the laws.

"Just because you increase penalties doesn't necessarily mean that it is going to deter the conduct," he said.

Drivers had a range of different opinions about the proposed increases to fines.

Stephanie Maris, of Kailua, said she'd support higher fines and believes they'd work to deter distracted driving.

"I think people who are dangerous on the road should be fined for it," she said.

But William Mahady, of Mililani, said the fines are already too high. He drives a tow truck, and said he's been ticketed for using a cell phone while driving.

Of the proposed fines, he said, "I think that's ridiculous. I think that's just taking more out of the middle-class, working-class people."

He added that the fine for using a cell phone while driving should be about $77.

Copyright 2017 HawaiiNewsNow. All rights reserved.