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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, May 13, 2010

Maui council votes to ban use of cell phones while driving

By Chris Hamilton
Maui News

WAILUKU A Maui County Council committee voted unanimously yesterday to ban the use of hand-held mobile electronic devices, including cell phones, while driving.

The bill is intended to reduce distracted driving accidents and will very likely become law July 1, said Committee of the Whole Chairman Mike Molina. The first violation would be a traffic citation with a fine of $100 and $250 for subsequent tickets, he said.

The council's Committee of the Whole is made up of all nine council members. Council member Joe Pontanilla introduced the measure last year. Maui County is the last county in the state without a ban on driving while using mobile electronic gadgets, such as phones, global positioning systems, e-mail, electronic book readers and texting devices.

"We have no excuses today, but to act," council member Wayne Nishiki said. "If it saves one person's life or keeps someone from being maimed, then it is our responsibility to get something passed today."

The committee vote on the bill was 7-0, with council members Danny Mateo and Jo Anne Johnson absent and excused.

The law would be fairly simple. People could still use cell phones as long as they didn't hold on to it while speaking, according to the bill's authors. The measure makes exemptions for hands-free devices, such as Bluetooth earpieces and voice-activated phones that are installed in the car's dashboard.

"This legislation reminds us that driving is a privilege and should be done with the least amount of distractions to ensure that safety is not compromised," Molina said after the vote.

Molina said the bill will go before the full council for first and second readings in the coming weeks and then to Mayor Charmaine Tavares for her signature before becoming law.