Distracted Driving Enforcement Part of New Campaign

March 27, 2013, 9:53 AM HST · Updated March 27, 11:05 AM
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File Photo by Wendy Osher.

File Photo by Wendy Osher.

By Wendy Osher

County police departments across the state will increase efforts to deter distracted driving during an upcoming campaign that begins next week, officials said.

The efforts are part of a month-long awareness effort being held in April as part of Distracted Driving Awareness Month, proclaimed by Gov. Neil Abercrombie last week.

According to state records cited by Abercrombie, police departments in Hawai’i issued a total of 20,905 citations for distracted driving last year.

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Authorities called the behavior “pervasive,” and said inattentive and distracted driving was a contributing factor for 24 of the 288 drivers involved in fatal crashes between 2007 and 2010, according to information released by the governor’s office.

“In 2011, 3,331 people were killed in crashes involving a distracted driver, compared to 3,267 in 2010,” according to distracted driving statistics released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The NHTSA defines distracted driving as any activity that could divert a person’s attention away from the primary task of driving.

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Distractions identified by the agency as posing a danger to the safety of vehicle occupants and bystanders include texting; using a cell phone or smartphone; eating and drinking; talking to passengers; grooming; reading, including maps; using a navigation system; watching a video; and adjusting a radio, CD player, or MP3 player.

“As handheld electronic devices continue to become more prevalent, the temptation to use them while driving increases; we all have a stake in this growing problem and we are all part of the solution,” Abercrombie said.

As part of the campaign, Abercrombie notes that county police departments will continue to enforce Hawai’i’s existing county ordinances prohibiting the use of mobile electronic devices while operating a motor vehicle.

Current ordinances make it illegal for drivers to text or engage in other hand-held uses of mobile electronic devices such as cell phones, MP3 players, and personal digital devices while operating a motor vehicle.

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