Honolulu Passes Ban on Texting, Gaming While Driving

A proposal to ban texting and playing video games while driving has been passed by the Honolulu City Council, according to the Honolulu Advertiser.

As GamePolitics previously reported, the measure does not enjoy the support of the city’s police department due to perceived difficulties in enforcement. City Councilman Nestor Garcia commented on the passage of the bill:

Most citizens will abide by it so if we can prevent one accident, whether it be by texting or playing a video game, then the imperfect law on the books will have done its job.

However, Councilman Rod Tam, who cast the only dissenting vote, criticized the measure:

This is bad legislation — unenforceable — an embarrassing situation.

The 2008 case of a city bus driver who was photographed playing a handheld game while driving was part of the impetus behind the new law. In discussing the bill, sponsor Charles Djou (left) harkened back to the bus incident:

Although the bus driver received some administrative punishment, there was nothing wrong or illegal with that bus driver engaging in that activity. This Honolulu City Council needs to make a very clear statement that that sort of activity should not be allowed on our public roadways.

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  1. Deamian says:

    Considering in some regions of the world (namely the one I live in) make it illegal to use a cell-phone without one of those ear-wig thingy, it’s only normal that they make texting/gaming illegal while driving…

    The passing of this law is comparable to Alaska’s law that makes it illegal to throw/push bears down a flying airplane… It’s common sense not to do those acts, yet someone was.. special enough to do it if the laws needed to be passed.

  2. Bennett Beeny says:

    "Although the bus driver received some administrative punishment, there was nothing wrong or illegal with that bus driver engaging in that activity."

    Erm… isn’t there already a reckless driving law?  Surely, even in Hawaii they have laws that govern this.

    This is a useless law, but it’s inexcusable for traffic police to say it’s unenforceable – I mean if they’re not going to enforce safe driving, what use are they?  Hey, United States – if this is the general attitude of traffic cops, there’s a few million dollars to be saved (in these tough economic times) by firing all the traffic cops who don’t want to do their jobs.

  3. KayleL says:

    I thought there are already other laws that can be used such as reckless driving, or something like that.

  4. Calling All Humans says:

    Ah geez, banning this? What about drive thru’s or ipods or when I look down at my navigation system? You have to draw the line of common sense.

  5. Chuma says:

    Sorry to disagree with you Rod, but I think this law is complete common sense.  Anyone who is gaming while driving frankly needs to have their license torn up in front of them.

  6. JustChris says:

    Some car designers have toyed with the idea of "platooning" in big streets or highways. Car platooning works the same way as army platooning, in the sense that squadmates are equally distanced by the dress right dress movement. But in the case of traffic, cars in different lanes than your own won’t be considered for judging distance.

    In a congested highway, when traffic picks up in speed, the first increase in an opening would signal the cars behind to automatically accelerate. All cars would stop and go in near simultaneous motion according to the distance covered, and without the compounded lag of many drivers pressing down the pedal as a reaction to seeing the tail lights of the car in front of them turn off. 


  7. HarmlessBunny says:

    This I can agree with. Texting and/or gaming while driving is too distracting. Drive or use your phone/game system…don’t do both.

  8. barra_sadei says:

    It’s not a matter of enforcing; it’s a matter of being able to identify the crime, as well as prioities. The former (identifying), I can imagine, could be a bit difficult (alright, it’s an understatement, but still). The latter applies depending on where you live.

    I live in Philadelphia, and I started driving in September. I’ve gotten enough driving experience to be well-off on my own in at least bad, wet weather (snow and ice is a different story). Now, in Philadelphia, there are, as you might expect, speed limits. But I can go 40 mph in a 35 zone, right past a cop, and he won’t do a thing.

    Now, if I were to do that in an outlying area, such as Bucks County, I’m likely to get pulled over.

    So… It’s a matter of priorities.

    Note: Sorry for giving a lengthy example. I explain myself better through examples than through explainations.

    The law, although probably difficult to enforce, does have its legal purposes. People might not get pulled over, but the fact that the law exists should stop at least some people from doing it, make others do it less, and, regrettably, will probably fail to get the message across to the rest. Even then, if an accident is caused by it (and it can be proven), more serious legal punishments could happen.

  9. Faceless Clock says:

    I am fairly sure the police have the right not to enforce the law in nearly all situations. They may get fired for their actions, but they’re not going to get convicted of anything. And hell, in America, police that do things wrong or fail to properly enforce the law seem to get promotions.

    The Honest Game – http://www.thehonestgame.org

  10. Andrew Eisen says:

    This is only my opinion and may not match actual statistics but it would seem to me that it’s not talking to someone on the phone that’s the problem.  I can talk to a passenger just fine.  It’s dialing, texting and otherwise fidgeting with an electronic gadget that is a distraction.

    Personally, I feel if you’re going to say "you can’t talk on a hands free headset while driving" you may as well say "you can’t talk to a passenger while driving."


    Andrew Eisen

  11. sqlrob says:

    Handsfree is (mostly) irrelevant. It’s not the hand use that’s the problem, it’s the distraction. It’s just as high using hands-free as holding it.

    I feel that hands-free is worse than regular. At least when someone is holding the phone you can TELL to give them wide berth. No such luck with a hands free.

  12. asmodai says:

    In Australia, using a hand held mobile is already an offense (using a hands free car kit is not of course) and is a good common sense law.  Texting or gaming when driving means that you’ll have your eyes off the road at points.  Doing it in traffic is dangerous.

    However, law enforcement apparently do have the right to decline to police certain laws.  eg. The government of Western Australia is trying to pass a law to make it illegal to smoke in a car carrying children.  The police commissioner has official stated that he will not be issuing the infringement books to his officers because he believes it’s a) a waste of police time and b) policing health rather than actual crime.

    If the Honolulu law prevents accidents even if the police refuse to enforce it, it will have helped.

  13. Andrew Eisen says:

    Yes, absolutely.  That’s what I mean when I say the law needs to be improved.  You should not be futzing around with any handheld devices while you’re driving.

    And you’re right about the CA law.  It went into effect last July and a rather large loophole was closed at the start of this year.


    Andrew Eisen

  14. TBoneTony says:

    It may be passed as a law, but it is still up to people taking responsibility for their own actions.

    Just like for drinking alcohol before driving or doing drugs.

    Personal responsibility.

    I would be more worried about politicians wasting tax payer dollars on bills that have no real teeth to them or are also unconstitutional.


    in this time of resession, why arn’t the politicians taking responsibility for the tax payer dollars that they are using?


  15. Faceless Clock says:

    We may be approaching an era where cars virtually guide themselves. I’m not sure we’re ever going to see a highly regulated system like you see in, say, Minority report. But if all cars were suddenly given the ability to accuractly gauge their postion in relation to other vehicles, the driver would quickly become the passanger.

    There are already hints of this in cars from luxury manufactures. Radar guided cruise control is fairly common in high-end cars, and now some Volvos and Mercedes vehicles will stop themselves in an emergy situation, as well.

    The Honest Game – http://www.thehonestgame.org

  16. Shadow D. Darkman says:

    True, HUDs on windshields is un-necessary, but damn would they be useful!


    "Game on, brothers and sisters." -Leet Gamer Jargon

  17. Faceless Clock says:

    In an ideal world, we shouldn’t have unenforceable laws on the books. They’re a waste of time and money. The fact that something is against the law doesn’t nessicarily have anything to do with people obeying, either.

    That said, I’m not sure if I buy the "unenforceable" arguement anyway. People will get caught doing this the same way they get caught speeding. Cops usually arn’t watching. Except for the times when they are, and BAM. Ticket.

    The Honest Game – http://www.thehonestgame.org

  18. LAG - Law Abiding Gamer says:

    Not to mention the boon to those of us who are unlucky enough to be caught in an accident with a "Textor".  At least now we have legal recourse…subpoena their wireless records.  Texting at the moment of the accident?  FAULT FOUND!

    I’m tired of paying the bill, insurance and otherwise, for those who feel that the roads are their playground, and who don’t feel any responsibility for the wellbeing of other motorists/pedestrians.

    ***Homicide-free video gaming since 1972!***

  19. SeanB says:

    Interesting quote from Rod Tam

    "This is bad legislation — unenforceable — an embarrassing situation."

    So many places already have these laws and laws like it. They’re good laws. Even if it was "unenforceble", the fact that it exists will still eliminate many from doing it.

  20. hayabusa75 says:

    But don’t you think that any use of your phone while driving is potentially distracting?  Other than talking using a hands-free device, that is.  CA law prohibits cell phone usage unless you’re using one, I believe.

    "There is no sin except stupidity." – Oscar Wilde

  21. Andrew Eisen says:

    Okay, I see what Tam is saying about the bill being unenforceable.  I’ve not read the bill but from what I gather, the concern is: "how do the police tell if what drivers are doing on a cell phone is appropriate or not?"

    A fine point.  Text messaging and emailing is no good but apparently other functions (talking on the phone, checking the calendar, playing with ringtones) are okay so there’s definitely room for improvement.  Differentiating between proper and improper cell phone use could be tricky.

    Having said that, I certainly see the value in giving police the ability to pull drivers over and give them a ticket if they’re spotted playing Nintendo DS while driving.

    The law needs to be improved but, as written, it will do some good.


    Andrew Eisen

  22. Joran says:

    I think in Maryland, we don’t have this law on the books.  Most of the legislators believe that the generic "Reckless Driving" works.

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