Drivers could use cell phones again

Using your cell phone while behind the wheel could become legal again if a bill making its way through the legislature is passed.

But only in certain situations.

The bill would change the distracted driving bill that went into effect last year and would provide a little bit of leeway.

“It was sort of like overzealous enforcement of the law,” said Sen. J. Kalani English, (D) Hana, East and Upcountry Maui.

That’s how Sen. English described police reaction to the distracted driving law.

“You know, we have all these problems where if anyone just touches a phone while they’re driving, the police are ticketing them,” Sen. English said.

The drivers KHON2 talked to agreed.

“My friend got pulled over. She wasn’t even messing with her phone. She just had it in her hand, driving through Waikiki, and the cop jumped out of the bushes on her,” driver Eric Grodzinski said.

HPD issued more than 11,000 citations last year.

The bill making its way through the legislature would amend the current law and could curb those numbers.

Drivers would be able to pull over and use their phone, just as long as they’re out of the way of traffic.

They would be able to do that if they’re searching for current traffic conditions, accidents, or alternative traffic routes.

“Everything now is on a smartphone. And that’s how you get any kind of up-to-the-minute information, so you should be allowed to do it,” driver Slater Robinson said.

“It’s your car, it’s your rules. As long as you don’t hurt nobody, you should be able to use your cell phone,” Grodzinski said.

Sen. English says the current law is also causing a backlog in the court system with more than 7,100 cases statewide, and a little more than half of that settled.

The bill is heading to the Senate Judiciary Committee, where lawmakers could decide what to do with the unsettled cases.

“They may say moving forward and let them, courts handle what’s already there,” Sen. English said.

Hawaii County police, Honolulu police, and Kauai County prosecutors all oppose the bill. HPD submitted testimony, claiming the amendments would endanger drivers.

The bill also changes the fine to $200 and makes a violation a traffic infraction.

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