Hawaiʻi Launches Distracted Driving Awareness Month
By Maui Now Staff
Maui police joined other county police departments and the state Department of Transportation in observing National Distracted Driving Awareness Month.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, drivers who use hand-held devices while driving are four times more likely to get into crashes serious enough to injure themselves or others.
The fine for violating the law starts at $257 on Maui, with higher fines of $347 in school or construction zones.
During the 2014 fiscal year, the county police departments issued more than 11,000 distracted driving citations statewide, indicating that it is a “pervasive and serious” problem.
In 2013, there were 3,154 people killed and 424,000 people injured nationwide in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers.
As part of the joint effort, representatives held a kick off event at the state capitol in which the Department of Transportation unveiled a new state-of-the-art simulator that allows drivers to go through various scenarios and experience the consequences of distracted driving, including crashing into objects, other vehicles and pedestrians.
The simulator is the only one of its kind in the state. It provides a realistic digital simulation system that uses a high-tech set of goggles and rotating turntables connected to a car. It will be used in school presentations and local safety fairs around the state throughout the year.
“Distracted driving is a real problem on our roadways,” said HDOT Director Ford Fuchigami in a department press release.
“Too many people think it’s okay to text, talk on the phone or play with their mobile devices while driving, but doing so may lead to real consequences and unnecessary tragedies. Unlike the simulator, you can’t just hit the reset button in real life,” he said.
DOT officials say additional research shows drivers in their 20s make up 27% of the distracted drivers in fatal crashes, and teens are the most at risk, as drivers under the age of 20 text more than any other age group.
To reach the younger audiences, HDOT hosted a competition for students from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa in which students were invited to submit concepts and scripts for a new public service announcement focusing on distracted driving.
The winner of the contest, Haruna Yamanaka, was presented with a $500 check from Toyota Hawaiʻi. Her winning concept and script will be professionally produced and broadcast on television and in movie theaters statewide later this summer.
Hawaii’s law bans the use of hand-held mobile electronic devices while operating a motor vehicle. This includes, but is not limited to: cellular phones, mp3 players, personal digital assistants, navigation devices and electronic tablets.
“While anything that takes your eyes off of the road, hands off of the wheel, or mind off of the task of driving is a hazard, there is a heightened concern about the risks of texting while driving because it combines all three types of distraction – visual, manual and cognitive,” said Fuchigami.
“It’s best to turn off your phone or mobile electronic device and put it in the trunk, glove compartment or back seat where you won’t be tempted to look at it or use it.”