Texting, video games and driving don't mix
The dangers of driving while text-messaging or playing a hand-held video game should be obvious — it's just common sense.
But, of course, not everyone uses common sense while driving. And there's growing evidence that this unacceptable practice is becoming more common.
That's why the threat of legal sanctions can be useful to discourage such behavior.
A bill before the City Council aims to do just that. It would ban the use of hand-held video games and text messaging while operating a motor vehicle.
It's a good start to address a trend that didn't even exist just a few years ago.
A 2008 survey by the Nationwide Mutual Insurance Co. showed that 18 percent of teens and adults surveyed reported texting while driving. For younger age groups, the numbers were higher: 36 percent of 16-17 year olds and 39 percent of those 18-30. While there are no similar surveys for Hawai'i, it's reasonable to assume that local trends would not be radically different.
Bill 67 does bring up issues that need to be addressed, including some raised at a hearing yesterday.
Attempts to weaken the bill through exemptions — particularly by commercial operators whose drivers use texting to communicate — should not be allowed. After all, taking one's eyes off the road to operate a hand-held device is inherently dangerous no matter who's doing it.
The bill allows entering a number or name into an electronic device to make a phone call. Doing that while driving sounds nearly as dangerous as texting; this language in the bill should be studied further.
As a city ordinance, Bill 67 would only be enforceable on O'ahu roadways.
State lawmakers, who have considered legislation restricing cell phone use, ought to revisit the issue when the Legislature reconvenes next year.
Admittedly, catching drivers in the act of violating a texting-while-driving ban won't be 100 percent effective. The same problem applies to speeders and seat-belt-use scofflaws.
But as a serious step to curb an obvious road hazard — and before someone dies — Bill 67 is a step in the right direction.