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Ask the Mayor: What Are Laws for Driving & Cell Phone Usage?

February 26, 2018, 8:32 AM HST · Updated February 26, 8:39 AM
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Mayor Alan Arakawa answers some of the questions submitted to his staff.

Submit your own questions about County of Maui programs, services, operations or policies to Mayor Alan Arakawa at AskTheMayor@mauicounty.gov, (808) 270-7855 or mail them to 200 S. High St., 9th Floor, Wailuku, HI 96793.

Questions submitted will be considered for inclusion in the “Ask the Mayor” column.

Mr. Mayor Arakawa,

Q: Will you please explain to the public exactly what the laws are for cell phone usage when driving. What exactly is considered “handsfree?”

If you are on a private, not on a county or state road, do those laws still apply?

What are the laws about texting? What are the fines?

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A: I had my staff follow up with the Maui Police Department regarding your question and the department provided the following information.

According to the Hawai‘i Revised Statutes §291-137 Mobile Electronic Devices; No person shall operate a motor vehicle while using a mobile electronic device. The use of a mobile electronic device for the sole purpose of making a “911” emergency communication shall be an affirmative defense to this law.

No person under 18 years of age shall operate a motor vehicle while utilizing a hands-free mobile electronic device, except for the sole purpose of making a “911” emergency communication.

Drivers of vehicle who are at a complete stop, while the engine is turned off, in a safe location by the side of the road out of the way of traffic, are exempt.

“Handsfree” simply means not holding anything within the operator’s hand. An example of a handsfree device would be a Bluetooth earpiece that attaches to a person’s ear, thereby leaving that person’s hands empty/unoccupied.

The laws do not apply to driveways or roads on private property; however, they do apply to and can be enforced on privately owned roadways open to the public, such as Eha Street and Waiale Drive in Wailuku.

If someone is operating a vehicle and texting while holding their mobile electronic device, that would be a violation. If the mobile electronic device was affixed to some sort of vehicle mount (windshield mount) and the operator was texting without actually holding the device, that would not be a violation.

The fines for violations regarding Mobile Electronic Device (MED): MED violation, $297; MED violation in a school or construction zone, $347; MED operator under the age of 18, $257; and MED operator under 18 in school or construction zone, $307.

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