Fine Now $297 for Using Electronic Device While Driving

July 2, 2014, 8:47 AM HST · Updated July 3, 4:02 PM
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U Drive U Text U Pay. Logo courtesy National Transportation Safety Board. Image/graphics by Wendy Osher.

U Drive U Text U Pay. Logo courtesy National Transportation Safety Board. Image/graphics by Wendy Osher.

By Maui Now Staff

The fine for using a mobile electronic device while driving increased to $297 this week, officials with the Maui Police Department announced. The fine for using a mobile electronic device within a construction or school zone is now $347, police said.

The increased fine went into effect on July 1, 2014, and also reduces the severity of the infraction from a traffic crime to a traffic infraction.

In the one year period since it became a state law, the Maui Police Department issued 968 citations for use of a mobile electronic device while driving.

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“With the change in the law, the courts will not be tied up with hearing each case a person is cited for using a mobile electronic device,” said police in a press release statement.

The law does allow for the use of hands free device while driving provided that the driver is 18 years of age or older.

Juveniles are prohibited from using a hands-free device, and face a fine of $257 for an infraction, or a $307 fine for using a hands-free device within a construction or school zone.

Drive Smart Advisory. Graphic by Wendy Osher.

Drive Smart Advisory. Graphic by Wendy Osher.

An exemption to the mobile electronic device law was added that allows drivers to use a mobile electronic device if they are at a complete stop, the engine is turned off, and they are in a safe location by the side of the road and out of traffic.

“Basically, if someone really needs to use the phone, they may do so by pulling off the road, in a safe location out of the way of traffic and they must turn off the engine,” police said.

State Senator J Kalani English of Maui who chairs the Committee on Transportation and International Affairs said, “After the law was passed in 2013, we at the Legislature received a lot of complaints about the vagueness of the law and the severity of requiring violators to go to court.  It was never our intention to require violators to go to court instead of mailing in a fine.”

He continued saying, “We also wanted to be very clear about what a violation was. If someone is on their phone while pulled over and completely stopped with the engine turned off in a safe location out of traffic – that seems like a reasonable and safe use of an electronic device while in a vehicle.”

The state Senate passed legislation calling for a $250 fine for the offense, but an additional $47 was tacked on by the District Court, which sets administrative fees on top of fines assessed by the state, according to Maui Police Sergeant Audra Sellers. The $47 fee was also added to the school zone violations. According to the legislation, fines collected go into the state highway fund.

“Driving while using your cell phone or any other electronic device is just plain dangerous and irresponsible,” said English. “Fines have proven to deter people from breaking the law, but more importantly, we want to keep the people of Hawaii safe. A person’s life is significantly more important than that Facebook post or text message.”

Prior to July 1, the fine was $100 to $200 for a first time violator; $200 to $300 for a second offense within one year; $300 to $500 for violations that occur within two years of two prior violations, and for the fourth and each subsequent violation, regardless of when committed. Drivers cited within a school or construction zone were required to pay double the aforementioned fine amounts.

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