Elementary school students could help change Hawaii driving laws

Paige Jimenez
Paige Jimenez
Caelyn Brown
Caelyn Brown

By Leland Kim - bio | email

HAWAII KAI (KHNL) - Two bills being considered by lawmakers could dramatically change the way you drive, and the idea came from two youngsters not even old enough to have a learner's permit.

It all centers around this device: a cell phone. Most of us have one, and a lot of us use it when we're driving. Some say it makes roads more dangerous than they have to be.

The next time you're driving, take a look around. Chances are you or someone next to you is talking or texting while behind the wheel.

"We counted how many people were talking on their cell phones, and we got 20 percent," said Paige Jimenez, a 10-year-old fifth grader at Haha'ione Elementary School in Hawaii Kai.

Jimenez and Caelyn Brown can't drive yet, but they say, they're old enough to know driving and cell phones don't mix.

"A lot of times if people get good news, they're like, 'Yay,' and they're not paying attention to the wheel and that's why some of these (things) happened," said Brown, who is Jiminez's classmate at Haha'ione.

They say the problem with texting or talking while driving is that it's an unnecessary distraction that could potentially cause accidents on the road.

So far, California, Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, Washington state, and the District of Columbia ban cell phone usage while driving. Jimenez and Brown want Hawaii to be next.

"They aren't going to be happy but it's going to help save many lives," said Jimenez. "They're going to be happier that they didn't die or accidentally kill someone than just to send that text."

So they contacted Rep. Gene Ward, R-Hawaii Kai and Kalama Valley, who challenged them to do their research before proposing their idea. They did and he introduced a bill (HB223) that would ban the use of cell phones without hands free accessories while operating a motor vehicle. It's one of two bills (the other one is HB143) that call for it.

"We're really proud of the two girls," said Ward. "We're really proud of them as ideal future citizens, future leaders, future legislators perhaps."

Jimenez and Brown enjoy texting, but they say they know not to do it when they learn how to drive.

"When you're young and you just get driving, that's probably one of the worst stages to do it," said Brown. "Because when you're just learning how to drive, and you start texting, and you're trying to pay attention to the road and you just learned the rules of the road, then how are you going to pay attention to both?"

Both bills are in the hands of house committees. HB143 is scheduled to be heard by the transportation committee on Feb. 18.