RED LIGHT PHOTO ENFORCEMENT AMONG BILLS UNVEILED BY STATE LEADERS
State leaders unveiled five pieces of legislation yesterday aimed at improving traffic safety on Hawai`i’s roadways. Â Senator J. Kalani English and Rep. Joe Souki of Maui, joined Governor Linda Lingle and the state Department of Transportation in making the announcement.Â The first piece of legislation is intended to help young motorists develop good driving habits by banning distracting behavior like texting, eating, grooming, and taking on the phone.Â A reckless driving bill further defines penalties and increases fines for violators.Â A separate bill adds penalties for those with a commercial CDL Drivers License who are convicted of driving under the influence.Â Moped and motor scooter riders and their passengers would be mandated to use helmets under another measure.Â And a final piece of legislation would give counties the authority to implement a red light photo enforcement program to document images of motorists who fail to stop at traffic lights. Â Details of each bill is as follows:
Distracted Driving Bill for New Drivers
The first piece of legislation is intended to help young drivers develop good driving habits and focus on driving safely. Â The bill applies to provisional licensees under the age of 18 years old (15 Â½ to 17 years old) with a Graduated Driver’s License (GDL). Â The bill would ban GDL drivers from the following while driving: using a wireless telephone (even hands-free device), using electronic devices to text message, playing video games, applying make-up, grooming or consuming food or beverages.
Statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration show that distracted drivers are 50 percent more likely to be injured or killed in crashes compared to attentive drivers. Â Drivers under the age of 20 are twice as likely to be in an accident due to being distracted than drivers of other ages.
“As a parent, I always want the best for my children. Â While parents can always remind children about not talking on the phone or not text messaging while driving, passing a law will reinforce this message,” said Brennon Morioka, director of the state Department of Transportation. Â “This is about keeping all motorists safe, especially young drivers.”
Reckless Driving Bill
This proposed bill further defines penalties for reckless drivers to serve as an additional deterrent, which ultimately will lead to safer roadways. Â One-third of all fatal crashes involve drivers who exhibit characteristics of reckless driving such as excess speeds, failure to obey traffic signs or signals, or driving on the wrong side of the road.
Depending on the number of offenses, the bill would give judges the authority to impose the following penalties: a $500 to a $2,500 fine, license suspension or revocation, attendance in an anger management course and/or driver training course, and two to 30 days of imprisonment.
Under the current law, sentencing at a judge’s discretion could include a fine of up to $1,000 and/or 30 days of imprisonment.
Driving Under the Influence for Commercial Drivers Bill
This bill adds penalties for those with a commercial drivers license (CDL) who are convicted of having traces of alcohol in their blood stream while operating a commercial vehicle. Â Current state law disqualifies a driver from operating a commercial vehicle if the driver is convicted of having a Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) of 0.04 or more. Â However, current law does not define any additional penalties for CDL drivers convicted of operating a commercial vehicle with alcohol in their bloodstream. Â This omission does not comply with federal regulations.
The proposed bill would fine drivers operating commercial vehicles with alcohol in their bloodstream up to $500 depending on their blood alcohol content level. Â Failure to enact this change could result in a loss of 5 percent of the state’s annual federal funding, and 10 percent every additional year the state remains non-compliant.
Moped and Motor Scooter Helmet Law Bill
This bill would mandate the use of helmets for all moped and motor scooter riders and their passengers. Â Statistics show that safety helmets save lives. Â Individuals without helmets are 40 percent more likely to sustain a fatal head injury. Â This bill aims to protect some of the most vulnerable and most exposed users on the road. Â A person riding a moped or motor scooter without a safety helmet is 16 times more likely to die in an accident than a person driving a car.
“The DOT believes mandating the use of safety helmets for one of the most vulnerable users on our highways will help prevent tragedies to families and our community,” said Morioka.
Red Light Photo Enforcement Program
This piece of legislation would give counties the authority to implement a red light photo enforcement program to document images of red light violators. Â These programs have been proven to be a safe, efficient and cost- effective way to address red light running.
National statistics from the Federal Highway Administration show that nearly 9,200 people died in 2005 in intersection related crashes and one million people were injured. Â This accounts for approximately 40-45 percent of all crashes.
Currently, 21 states as well as the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico already have a photo red light enforcement program or have presented legislation that would enable the installation of this technology.
“When it comes down to safety on our roadways for each of us and our families, the choice is simple,” said Governor Lingle. Â “All five of these proposed pieces of legislation deserve our full support in order to save lives and prevent injuries. Â My Administration will work collaboratively with the Legislature, counties, law enforcement community and safety advocates to pass these bills to help make our roadways safer.”
(Posted by Wendy Osher:Â Thursday, January 15, 2009)