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Hawaii police officers try to fight distraction caused by phones

Mobile phones have made life easier for everyone on the islands, as they provide easy access to information and fast communication, which can be particularly beneficial in a moment of crisis or a family emergency. Unfortunately, there is plenty of negative impact to balance out the social benefits created by the rise in mobile phone use.

Distracted driving, which involves focusing your attention on something other than the task of driving, has always been a safety risk on the roads. With the increased use of mobile phones came a drastic increase in how many people were distracted by screens while driving.

In Hawaii, with its twisting roads, unpaved thoroughfares and high levels of foot traffic in many areas, distracted driving poses a substantial risk to other people on the road and pedestrians. Lawmakers and law enforcement officers have taken steps intended to safeguard both the citizens of the state and visitors endangered by distracted drivers.

Hawaiian law prohibits manual phone use at the wheel

Not all states have a blanket ban in place regarding the use of mobile devices while driving, but Hawaii prohibits the use of a cellphone or other computing technology like a tablet while driving. The state law specifically prohibits the use of a hand-held device, whether someone wants to read a text or enter a song.

Mobile phones aren't the only devices included in this ban. The manual use of a digital navigation unit, an mp3 player, a tablet or any other kind of screen-based technology while driving violates state law.

Adults over the age of 18 can find some flexibility in these rules through the use of hands-free devices, including talk-to-text programs. Younger drivers, however, cannot even legally use hands-free devices while driving.

Law enforcement officers intentionally target distracted drivers

It is one thing to have a lot on the books, and another thing entirely to actually enforce the laws. Hawaii makes notable efforts every year to enforce distracted driving statutes. In 2018, police officers cited around 14,500 people for distracted driving. When you consider that the penalties for these citations include a fine of at least $297, all of those tickets add up.

Police officers make an extra enforcement effort during April, which is National Distracted Driving Awareness Month, but they will gladly stop and ticket people at any time of year for flagrant violations of the distracted driving law. Additionally, there are awareness campaigns targeting drivers, as well as students in public high schools.

Those accused of distracted driving have the right to challenge those allegations and the citation that results. Phone records or even alternative explanations for what an officer thought they saw can provide the basis for a defense against a distracted driving citation.

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