EXCLUSIVE: King Street drivers most likely to get texting or cell phone tickets

Published: Jun. 6, 2014 at 4:16 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Honolulu police gave out more tickets-per-mile along King Street in the last four years for drivers using cell phones or texting than any other roadway on Oahu, according to data uncovered by Hawaii News Now.

Sam Nichols, who lives in Pearl City and works downtown got a reminder just two weeks ago why the law banning distracted driving is important.

"A lady was on her phone texting when she drove in to my son and my dog who were crossing the street in Palisades.  And my son's OK, but the dog's gone through a lot of trouble," Nichols said.

Her son Joshua, 23, suffered from a bruised back and some scrapes but her dog Koa, a Labrador-hound mix, lost his tail which was crushed by the car, Nichols said.

Records show that police issued more than 4,600 tickets to people using their mobile devices while driving along King Street in the last four years, more citations per mile than any other roadway on Oahu.

King Street is just six miles long and had almost as many tickets as the H-1 Freeway, which at 27 miles is nearly five times longer than King Street.  Officers issued more than 4,800 citations along the H-1 in the same time period.

People who work downtown aren't surprised by the numbers.

"Cause I walk around here and get Starbucks a lot and I still see people on their phone while they're driving.  Mostly on the phone, talking, not texting," said Brittany Meyers of McCully.

Christian Gonzalez, who lives downtown, said, "And you can see when they're texting. Whether their face is illuminated at night or they're basically just looking down and trying to text at the same time.  So both talking on their phones and texting."

Police issued more than 1,700 tickets to distracted drivers along Beretania Street in the last four years.

In that same period, officers cited another 1,700 drivers along Kalakaua Avenue for breaking the cell phone law.

Honolulu Police Department officials said there are several reasons why enforcement was higher per mile on streets in urban Honolulu.

First off, there are many police officers coming and going from police headquarters, which is between King and Beretania Streets.  Second, cars generally drive slower on those city streets than on freeways and highways, so it's easier for officers to see drivers holding their electronic devices in their cars. Third, it's safer to pull people over on city streets with extra parking lanes and loading zones versus freeways and highways, some of which don't have full shoulder lanes.  Freeway and highway traffic also travel at higher speeds, making it more dangerous to pull people over on those roadways compared to city streets, police said.

The state Judiciary provided Hawaii News Now with citation information statewide going back to 2010, when the laws first began to be enforced.

The numbers show 65,717 issued tickets across the state, with 54,630 of them on Oahu.

Only a small fraction – 4,107 or seven percent -- of those distracted driving tickets were dismissed or thrown by a judge.

Others just hope not to get caught by police.

"Try to stay in the middle lane, if you can, so that way they can't get you that bad.  I don't know.  Anyway, just be smart about it," said Rick Ruggles of Pacific Heights.

Here are other approximate distracted driving ticket totals for other Oahu roadways between 2010 and 2014: 5,224 on Kamehameha Highway; 1,446 on Nimitz Highway; 1,203 on Kapiolani Boulevard; 1086 on Salt Lake Boulevard; 532 on Vineyard Boulevard; 484 on the Pali Highway and 346 on Bishop Street.

(Special Projects Producer Daryl Huff contributed to this report)