Maui Discussion

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 [email protected], (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?

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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