Governor signs laws regarding seat belts and mobile devices while driving

Governor signs laws regarding seat belts and mobile devices while driving

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Governor Neil Abercrombie signed two new highway safety laws Monday, one of which drivers and passengers will have to pay attention to.

Before today it was not mandatory for adults sitting in the backseat of a car to wear a seat belt. Now it is.

There is also a new state law that targets talking on the phone behind the wheel.

With the stroke of a pen there is now a statewide law that bans holding a mobile device while driving.  It now supersedes the county laws.  Also kids under 18 cannot even use a hands free device while driving.

The fine is between $100 and $200 for the first offense.  It's doubled in a school or construction zone.

Last year 20,000 distracted drivers in the state were ticketed under county laws.  And 32 percent of accidents in Hawaii were caused by inattention to driving, many of which were deadly.

"Behind each statistic is someone's loved one or friend," said Jadine Urasaki, State Transportation Deputy Director.

The other new law is about buckling up.  People in the back seats of cars must now wear a seat belt.  It's something Governor Abercrombie said seemed obvious but it wasn't a law before even though studies show seat belts work.

"This is really important because passengers in the back seat are three times more likely to have injuries or fatalities if they are unrestrained," said Loretta Fuddy, State Health Director.

Honolulu Police Captain Darren Izumo was at the bill signing and says he has been to over 500 fatal and critical accidents in his career.

"With that experience I can say unequivocally with conviction properly worn seat belts save lives no doubt about it," said Capt. Izumo.

Yet riding in the back of a pickup truck is still legal even though a Federal Transportation Administrator at the bill signing says it's another obvious safety concern.

"What I don't understand is why someone says it is safe to ride back there unrestrained because it is not. You hit something, tip over and (gesture for you're out). Ejections from vehicles are deadly," said David Manning, Ph.D., U.S. Department of Transportation Region 9 Administrator.

"I've talked to a few a few people about the back of pickups so we'll take a good look at that next year," said State Senator Clayton Hee, (D) Judiciary Committee Chair.

"It's clear it's a safety hazard. What we do about it will be up to the legislature to decide," said Governor Abercrombie. "I have my opinions but I think until the legislature addresses it we'll just have to go with the way it is right now."

It is an issue primed to be addressed again down the road.

These were just two of the 293 bills that went to the Governor's desk for approval.  The Governor has already signed 75 bills into Law.  On June 24 the Governor is required to release the list of bills he may veto. Then July 9 is the deadline to sign, veto or let pass into law without his signature.

To read the state law regarding mobile devices and driving click here.

To read the state law regarding seat belt use in back seats click here.

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