Texting, playing video games while driving banned

Council member Charles Djou
Council member Charles Djou
Council member Rod Tam
Council member Rod Tam
Major Thomas Nitta
Major Thomas Nitta

By Mari-Ela David - bio | email

HONOLULU (KHNL) - Should you be allowed to play video games or text while you're driving?

The Honolulu City Council on Wednesday made up its mind on the issue.

The Council cast its final vote on a bill that makes texting or playing video games while driving, illegal on Oahu.

But there's concern the ban may be ineffective.

With seven 'yes' votes, and one 'no', a ban on text messaging while driving got the green light from Honolulu leaders. The ban also applies to playing video games while behind the wheel.

What sparked the move?

"Recently we had an unfortunate incident of a Honolulu bus driver playing a video game, with numerous passengers on his city bus, and it was videotaped ironically from a cell phone video camera and the activity was perfectly legal," said Council Member Charles Djou.

The sole 'no' vote came from Council Member Rod Tam.

He says he's all for safety, but says the ban is difficult to enforce.

"This is bad legislation. Unenforceable. And an embarrassing situation quite frankly. I'm shameful," he said.

"We will be unable to differentiate what the person is doing, as opposed from texting, as opposed from downloading, utilizing the phone for communication purposes," said Thomas Nitta of the Honolulu Police Department.

But the consensus is, prevention overshadows execution, and that a ban sends a strong message to the community that supporters say won't fall on deaf ears.

"I believe most citizens will abide by it," said Council Member Nestor Garcia.

"Even if we prevent 5% of the accidents out there, it's worth it," said Council Member Gary Okino.

The ban is now a Mayor's signature away from becoming law.

Tam says he'll urge Mayor Mufi Hanneman to veto the ban.

He says, from a law enforcement standpoint, it's more practical to expand the ban so that it applies to all electronic devices.

Tam says he will introduce a bill that does just that.