Governor signs two traffic safety bills

By Brenton Awa
Published On: May 21 2013 12:17:59 PM HST

Seatbelts aren't just for drivers and shotgun passengers anymore. Now everyone in the car needs to buckle up in Honolulu.

HONOLULU -

Gov. Neil Abercrombie signed two traffic safety bills on Monday. One of them bans the use of mobile electronic devices while driving and the other requires all occupants of a vehicle to wear their seat belts.

Honolulu Police Department Capt. Darren Izumo says he's been to well over 500 fatal and critical accident scenes in Hawaii.  He's seen more than his share of back seat passengers who didn't buckle up.

"Properly worn seat belts save lives, no doubt about it, I've seen it first-hand," says Captain Izumo.

Hawaii has one of the highest seat belt usage rates in the nation, but Captain Izumo says HPD still issued over 8,000 seat belt citations in 2012.

The new law requires all front and back seat occupants to buckle up.

"You're going to save lives, you're going to stop the people in the back from becoming missiles, and you're going to cut down on your costs, says David Manning, of the National Highway and Transportation Safety Administration.

Those costs refer to medical charges. The Department of Health says back seat passengers not wearing their seat belts had medical costs that nearly tripled those who took a moment to fasten in.

The law went into effect on Monday and carries a $92 fine per passenger. The citation is issued to driver.

A driver we spoke to recognizes the importance of wearing seat belts but doesn't think drivers should get a ticket if their passengers aren't careful.

"It shouldn't be my responsibility necessarily as a driver depending on how old the passengers are," says Annie Hiller.

The Governor also signed a bill to ban the use of electronic devices while driving.

While all county's already have "distractive driving laws" in place, there was no universal state law.

The law will go into effect July 1st and under it violators can face a penalty of between $100-200 for first time offenders.

If caught in a school or construction zone, the fine is doubled.

Violate the distracted driving law twice in a year and the fine can go up to $300.

Three or more violations over a span of two years can cost you up to $500.

"We're not trying to punish anybody, we're trying to get people to comply with the law, educate them," says Izumo. 

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