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New traffic safety laws

Gov. Neil Abercrombie signs new traffic safety bills into law. (Photo courtesy of The Governor’s Office)

MEDIA RELEASE

With representatives of the state Departments of Transportation and Health, county police departments and traffic safety advocates standing in support, Gov. Neil Abercrombie on Monday signed into law two significant traffic safety bills that will save lives and reduce serious injuries from motor vehicle crashes in Hawaii.

“Hawaii is putting safety first on our roadways with the enactment of our state’s universal seat belt law; this measure closes the gap in protecting all passengers riding in a motor vehicle,” Abercrombie said. “In addition, the enactment of Hawaii’s distracted driving law establishes consistency across the state for the usage of mobile electronic devices while driving, simplifying enforcement and likewise making our highways and roadways safer.”

Senate Bill 4, relating to “Motor Vehicles”

‘Enacted as Act 73, this measure requires all front seat and back seat occupants to buckle up, effective immediately. Adults and children must use their seat belts and child restraints at all times.

Unrestrained back seat passengers were more than three times as likely to have injuries that were fatal or required hospitalization compared to restrained back seat passengers, based on DOH’s analysis of Emergency Medical Services records.

Additionally, among back seat passengers who were treated for injuries by EMS, average medical charges were nearly tripled among those who did not use seat belts ($11,043), compared to restrained passengers ($3,817).

“The Department of Health is pleased to see rates of passenger-related injuries going down based on high levels of seat belt use among front seat passengers,” Health Director Loretta Fuddy said. “We anticipate that we’ll see further reductions in injuries and death with the passage of this law for back seat passengers.”

“Seat belts save lives,” said Sen. J. Kalani English, chair of the Senate Committee on Transportation and International Affairs. “The enactment of this measure reinforces what many of us already know, that the importance of seat belt use can’t be ignored. By taking a few moments to buckle up, we can each play a vital role in preventing an unnecessary tragedy.”

House Bill 980, relating to “Highway Safety”

Enacted as Act 74, this measure is effective July 1, 2013. While all counties have some form of a distracted driving ordinance in place, this measure establishes a state law that creates consistent requirements across all counties for the use of mobile electronic devices while driving and will simplify enforcement.

Crash data from the DOT shows that during 2007, 32 percent (2,871 of the 8,770 collisions) were attributed to inattention to driving.

“People are injured or dying each year simply because they were not paying attention to the road. The possibility of causing a crash that could ruin lives is just too great,” DOT Director Glenn Okimoto said. “We are focusing on changing the behaviors of drivers through legislation, enforcement, public awareness and education – the same activities that have helped curb impaired driving and increased seat belt use. Our goal is to help drivers understand that texting, cell phone use, and other distractions behind the wheel can have dangerous consequences.”

“Studies show that mobile phone use while driving can have lethal effects,” English said. “By providing consistent statewide requirements for the use of mobile electronic devices while driving, we are telling drivers that using a mobile device while driving is dangerous and unacceptable. I encourage Hawaii drivers to drive responsibly; the safety of everyone who uses our roads depends on it.”

The bill signings were held in conjunction with the DOT’s launch of the annual Click It or Ticket enforcement campaign, a partnership between the state and counties with federal funding.

During the national Click It or Ticket mobilization from May 20 to June 2 and throughout the year, police statewide will be continuing strict enforcement of the state seat belt and child passenger restraint laws.

One Response to “New traffic safety laws”

  1. Janine Hope says:

    The click it or ticket campaign is such a farce played on tax payers. It’s too hard to go after real criminals so this is a way to justify using our tax dollars to cover their paychecks. Don’t you all just feel safe knowing that the cops are protecting us against those scary criminals that don’t buckle up?

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