Honolulu Mayor Vetoes Ban on Gaming, Texting While Driving

The mayor of Honolulu has vetoed a recently-passed law that would make it illegal to text or play a video game while driving.

As reported by the Honolulu Star, Mayor Mufi Hannemann (left) notified City Council by letter that he was exercising his veto power over concerns about enforcement of the measure. The gaming/texting while driving law was passed by City Council late last month. The Mayor explained his veto in his letter:

I applaud the Council’s intent to address this public safety matter. A police officer operating a motor vehicle will only have a second or two to determine if the driver is committing a violation by text messaging or playing a video game.

As GamePolitics has previously reported, Honolulu’s police chief also expressed concerns about the ability of his officers to enforce the measure. Mayor Hannemann has indicated that he would support a more generalized ban on cell phone use while driving.

Meanwhile, City Councilman Charles Djou criticized the Mayor’s decision:

The facts are as they stood two weeks ago. The Council should override, and the only reason a Council member should change one’s mind is politics.

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  1. Kioshi says:

    Yes, we can both agree that driving and gaming do not mix. Unless you’re not in the driver’s seat. Even then, it’s not always a good idea since I get headaches while staring at screens in the back seat. Haha.

  2. Andrew Eisen says:

    "Do you folks have laws specificly against the texting and playing games while driving?"

    As a matter of fact we do.  I live in California and the law is brand new.

    I’m aware that most camera’s are mounted on the dash and look forward.  I don’t know if they swivel or not but I know I’ve seen police video looking out the cop’s passenger window and into the window of the neighboring driver’s.

    As to your last point, most people never notice the cops until they turn their lights on.  If they’re busy texting (or dialing which I don’t think you should be doing in the car anyway) they probably won’t notice a cop next to them.  And if they do notice and stop what they’re doing because they no they can get a ticket for it, that’s a good thing.

    EDIT: Whether you think it’s impossible to tell if someone is texting or not, I think we can all agree that the "don’t game and drive" part of the law is valuable enough to have on the books.  My opinion (and keep in mind I know little about the ins and outs of traffic law) is that the law shouldn’t have been vetoed because, as written, it does enough good to be valuable.

    I think the law should have been passed and quickly amended (much like the above mentioned CA law) to close the obvious loopholes and enforcement difficulties.


    Andrew Eisen

  3. Kioshi says:

    If it was so easy then why do we not see something like this nation wide? Obviously something like playing games and texting on cell phones is not something people want on the roads. Do you folks have laws specificly against the texting and playing games while driving?

    Personally, I think the only reason why video games were added onto this law is because of the bus driver incident we had a while back. Had that not happened, I am sure this would purely be about texting while driving.

    People can say something is easy to do, but until you actually see it in action, you have no idea what problems could come up. Now this hasn’t been around long enough for the problems to become clear evidence, but I believe a bunch of them up in the state see the various problems that can arise from it, and want to rework it before an incident like the van cams comes up.

    As for the proof part of it, the cameras are mounted in the front of vehichles. Unless the car is traveling back and forth, they wouldn’t be able to tell from behind the car. They would have to litterally drive next to every single car. Then there is the question of if that said person is actually playing a game or if they are texting. You can’t expect everyone to know the difference among all of the different types of portable electronics out there.

    Again I ask, how would you tell the difference between someone looking up a phone number or someone texting? You could argue that the cop just has to look and watch, but seriously, if a cop car comes up next to me I would not be dumb enough to keep texting or whatever. I would put it to my ear as if I was making a phone call or even put it down.

  4. Bennett Beeny says:

    The problem here is that, while the law IS enforceable, police AREN’T enforcing it because as the police say "Oh THAT law.  It’s just too hard to enforce that law.  We’d have to like look at drivers and stuff, and do some actual work".

  5. Andrew Eisen says:

    Okay, first of all, I’m not referring to the speed trappers sitting on the side of the road.  I’m referring to the ones actually driving.

    Second, most police cars have cameras.  I’ve seen plenty of shows where a cop car paces another vehicle where the driver is reading a book, a map, applying makeup, etc.  So there’s your proof.  Also, cell phones usually log text histories.

    This is not difficult.  If a police officer sees someone playing a video game while driving, he can pull them over and do something about it.  As I’ve said many times over, the law as written needs some work but it’s a nice start and very enforceable.


    Andrew Eisen

  6. Kioshi says:

    I actually live in Hawaii and had been following up on this. The concept of this thing is a good idea, but the way they would enforce it would be extremely difficult, since like most people see, police officers have so little time to determine what is going on in a moving car. Not to mention with smart phones these days, who is to say someone is not typing in a phone number with a QWRTY keyboard opposed to texting?

    I personally think that this is being vetoed early on to prevent the city digging itself in a hole, again. A few years back, they implimented a "van cam" system, where cameras in vans would record the speed of passing vehichles along with their license plate. If your car was caught speeding, you would be mailed a speeding ticket which you have to pay.

    This made it easier to catch more speeders than a lone police officer would be able to do on his own, however because the van cams could not tell who was actually driving the veichle, many people complained. I think there was even a story about how some guy was in iraq and came home to see like 5 or so speeding tickets waiting for him. Eventually the van cams were removed because many more people had similar sitituations.

    Again, the concept of this law, where people should not be texting or playing games while driving, is a good idea. But a law won’t do anyone any good if it cannot be enforced. Some people may argue that the law simply being in place will help discourage people from doing it, but at the same time, you’ll have people who will be encouraged to break other laws because they feel that the law enforcement can’t catch them or something to that effect. That’s my opinion anyway.

  7. hayabusa75 says:

    Why did you guys actually have to do research to come to those conclusions?  Seems like a pretty small leap in logic to me.

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

  8. wsherwoo says:

    My name is Wes Sherwood and I am the safety communications manger for Ford.  This is a very important discussion and something we’ve researched a lot.  A new Ford study shows voice-controlled interfaces such as Ford SYNC significantly reduce distraction levels compared to visually and manually operated handheld cell phones and music players.

    For example, study participants spent an average of 25 seconds with their eyes-off-the-road to select a song with a handheld MP3 player compared with 2 seconds for those choosing a song using SYNC.

    More information on Ford’s research is at http://media.ford.com/article_display.cfm?article_id=29812
  9. Andrew Eisen says:

    Unless the highway patrol is being forced to meet some quota, I still don’t see the problem.  Cops look over into a driver’s car all the time.  It’s what they do.  If you see them playing DS, pull them over.  If you see them paying more attention to their cell phone then the road, pull them over.  If everything looks good, move on.  Simple.


    Andrew Eisen

  10. Benji says:

    The issue I think is a question of how many resources the police would have to spend to catch someone.  The cops would have to be following and observing a driver for several seconds to determine that they are likely texting while driving – a momentary glimpse of someone pushing buttons on their phone tells you nothing because they could realistically just be dialing a legal call.  And since there’s lots of drivers on the road and only a small fraction of them are likely to be texting while driving, cops will have to spend a lot of time following and watching drivers to hope to catch one.  It’s a lot of effort to go through for what’s probably not more than a $100 moving violation.

    The problem of enforceability was raised when Minnesota passed that law that fined underage buyers of M-rated games $50.  To actually enforce it they’d have to have cops stationed at game retailers, watching transactions, and re-checking IDs of anyone that looks under 17.  And sales involving M-rated games to uncarded, unaccompanied minors make up a tiny fraction of all transactions at game retailers (since most M-rated games are sold to adults, or to minors accompanied by adults, or are rejected because the clerk remembers to card the minor.)  So, a lot of effort spent by law enforcement for a fairly small chance at scoring a $50 civil fine.

  11. Andrew Eisen says:

    The bill was certainly not without its problems but I’ve never understood the enforcement argument.  How hard is it to simply pull someone over if you see them playing video games?


    Andrew Eisen

  12. Coach says:

    There are many laws that are just not enforceable in that it is difficult to catch people while they are doing it.  It is against the law to murder someone yet how often are people that murder caught in the act?  Not being able to catch people in the act does not preclude a law against it if the commision of the act can be proven after the fact.  If the law can prove you were texting or gaming while driving in a situation where that distraction caused damage to body or property, then you’d be found guilty of that charge.  As someone already pointed out, the definition of careless/reckless driving should be expanded to include texting and gaming.  A new law is not required.  That isn’t the reason the Mayor cited however.  He cited catching people in the act.  The mayor is correct to veto the law, but not for the reason he stated.  I submit that the mayor is a bonehead who happened to get the veto correct for the wrong reason.  

  13. Spartan says:

    Go Mufi go!

    He is a good guy – really. Much, much better than Frank methinks.


    "The most difficult pain a man can suffer is to have knowledge of much and power over little" – Herodotus

  14. Andrew Eisen says:

    But it can be enforced.  Easily.  Look in the car.  Highway Patrol does this all day, every day.  If someone’s playing a DS or PSP it’s going to be obvious in one glance.  If the driver seems to be paying more attention to a phone then the road, pull them over.

    I honestly can’t wrap my head around this "it’s unenforceable" argument.  Does the bill have issues that need to be addressed?  Undoubtedly but enforcement isn’t one of them.


    Andrew Eisen

  15. Kioshi says:

    Seriously, how can you expect a stationary police officer to use his radar gun to catch speeders and have enough time to look into the window of each car passing by if they are spending more time paying attention to a phone or any electronical device? Have you ever stood on the side of the highway and watched cars passing by you at 60+ mph? You can’t expect an officer to be using radar guns to catch speeders AND stare into each window passing by.

    It would be of course easy if they were at a stop light or something and the cop had been on the corner looking into the window, but out on the high way, the only way to really catch someone like that is if they are having trouble driving straight on the road, much like someone who is driving under the influence.

    On top of that, with phones like sidekicks and such becoming rather popular, how do you determine that someone is texting opposed to trying to find a name in their address book? At a glance, you can’t be able to tell if someone is texting or dialing. Many officers may not even be able to tell the difference between a gaming device and a phone with a keyboard, especially from a distance.

    And finally, unlike driving under the influence, broken tail lights, speeding, there is no solid evidence that you did what the police officer saw. If someone got pulled over for texting or playing games, they could hide the device after getting pulled over and before the officer can get to the car to issue a ticket. It’s not like smoking weed where there is evidence of a smell either, someone could argue that they were simply dialing a number. Without solid proof, they are innocent until proven guilty. It would realistically be your word vs the officer’s word without any evidence.

  16. Maktul says:

    I assume from your comment that you at least looked at the website.  From what I saw (and I will admit the possibility of being wrong) it looked like they attempt to substantiate what is submitted to them.  I’d say nearly half of the laws they have listed had an option to view the actual wording of the law.

    Your example doesn’t work well.  Just because someones mobile device received a text message seconds before an accident does not mean they were texting.  It just means that someone sent them a message in that time period.  (Granted if while following your example they had been sending and receiving several messages in the minutes and seconds before the accident, you are in all probability correct, and fault proven.  However your example has a single incident and I would say fault is not proven.)

    I don’t know how Honolulu’s system is set up.  It’s quite possible that this is the Mayor’s only choice with it.  Either let it be, or veto it.  And again, he’s not saying the law was a bad attempt, just that it needs to be broadened to cover all cell phone use.  In other words they should do what the state of Washington did last year.  It is illegal to use a cell phone at all while driving in Washington.  They drafted the law, passed it, and then educated the public before it took effect.  From the Mayor’s comments, that’s what he’s hoping the city council will do.

  17. SeanB says:

    Right, a website with unsubstantiated, user submitted claims of laws that cant be found on the books, is a reason not to make new, sensible, laws.

    It’s against the law to kill people. Is anyone claiming that it’s easy to enforce that law in a way that prevents it from happening?

    Sometimes a law is in place simple because it needs to be in place. This law doesn’t need to be enforced to be effective. An accident occurs, and one of the people claims that the other was seen using a mobile device. The device is analyzed, and it’s found that it recieved a text message just seconds before the crash. Fault proven.

    Laws dont need to be veto’d, they can be ammended or rewritten when already on the books.

  18. King of Fiji says:

    Ok let me rephrase that as you make a good point.  I’m not wishing any innocent people dead.  What I’m wishing is that stupid people would hit trees.  Unless your a member of greenpeace I don’t think there is that much to cry about over an idiot hitting a tree instead of innocent people.  🙂

    Sorry if I worded it in a way that makes me sound like a jagoff.  🙂

    And accutally my respone would be "Oops they should of had a V8."

  19. lordlundar says:

    And how does that response answer the question? Consider this, An impared driver hits another car, everyone’s dead on impact. You’re cheering because another irresponsible driver is off the road. Then you find out that the other vehicle had a full family on their way home from visiting family and were in the wrong place at the wrong time. From what you posted, your response to hearing this is "Whoops! They should have had OnStar." Yeah, that would serve them well because apparently they could use it while dead.

  20. King of Fiji says:

    Invest in On Star.  😛

    And just so we know I know that its a horrible idea to put cell phone jammers in cars especially considering they are illegal in the U.S. and pretty much every other country its just that it annoys me oh so much that Sally May can’t wait to get home to talk to Betsy about the date she had with Bobby at the Ice Cream Social.  Or of course pull over and talk.

      Patience is dead apparently.  🙁  

  21. King of Fiji says:

    I know but then maybe the jagoffs might be the ones crashing and hopefully it will reduce the jagoff population.

  22. SeanB says:

    a certain (possibly large) percentage of the public will follow laws because they want to follow the law, yes. People sending text message while driving are not criminlas, because this was not a Criminal law.

    While i’m sure it’s nice to summarize things into single sentences, the rule of law is a little more complicated, Austin.

  23. Austin_Lewis says:

    If the law had existed, it wouldn’t have stopped anybody from doing it who already did it.  That’s moronic.  Just like the other guy who replied to you’s law against getting erections in public, how are police going to know?  They can’t identify if you’re on the phone or scratching your face or what, not at 25 mph or over. To suggest that an idiotic law stops anyone is ridiculous.  Do you think that criminals obey the laws because they’re there too?

  24. Maktul says:

    The reason people break laws is because they think they won’t be caught.  I’m not saying that people breaking a law is a reason to repeal a law, but it might be a reason to look for a better way to enforce or educate people on the reason a specific law exists.

    Your comment though about Laws not being in place to be enforced and that laws existing would stop people from doing whatever the law is supposed to prevent doesn’t make sense.  Just look at the stupid things that are on the books now.

    For example, in Idaho (where I live) it is illegal for a man to give his sweetheart a box of candy weighing less than fifty pounds.  How can you enforce that?

    In Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, no person shall change clothes in his or her vehicle.

    And in Allentown, Pennsylvania, there is a ban on men becoming aroused in public.

    You think that people have stopped doing any of those just because there’s a law against it, even if they can’t be enforced?  (I may have to give you the Rehoboth Beach one, I’d guess it depends on the size of the town, but still).

    The Mayors message wasn’t "It’s okay to do this" (granted there are people that will interpret it that way, but only those that won’t listen), it was, "This does not work, try again and here’s my suggestion on how to do it that I’ll approve."


    (as to where I got the laws I referenced, it was http://www.dumblaws.com and to get there I just googled stupid laws)

  25. SeanB says:

    There’s the attitude we need to send to the public.

    If you think you cant get caught, it shoulnd’t be a law!

    Laws are not always in place just to be enforced. If the law had existed, it would have stopped plenty of people from doing it.

    The message he now sends to the public is that it’s okay to do it.

  26. lordlundar says:

    The real problem with this law is that it serves no purpose than justifying the maker’s exitence. There’s already laws in place that either deal with this as part of it or can be extended to accomodate it. (Driving with undue care, Driving while distracted, Driving while impaired, etc.) As well, they are enforced just as heavily as they can be. There’s no real purpose for this law to make the public think that they are actually doing something while they’re just sitting on their asses.

  27. sortableturnip says:

    Let’s say the ban was in effect.  A police officer is behind a moving vehicle and checking the vehicle’s tags on his computer…or calling in to the dispatch office for verification of the tags…wouldn’t the police officer be guilty of this?

  28. Arell says:

    I think they should have went ahead with the ban.  I mean, ok, it wouldn’t be easy to look for and enforce.  But then, the police wouldn’t have to actively search for that sort of thing.  Just enforce it when you happen to catch it, but don’t go out of your way.  The risk of a fine alone would cut down significantly on that sort of behavior.

  29. JB says:

    That’s not really a great idea. If you get into an accident and you’re trapped in your car your cell phone may be your only hope for getting help.

    Basically if you need to use the phone, find a safe place to pull over and yap/text/game away.

  30. King of Fiji says:

    Can we just install cell phone jammers in all future cars and let it be the end of it all?  If people want to be jagoffs then lets simply outjag them.


  31. Cerabret100 says:

    He’s got a good point.  with all the crap police officers have to look for, i’d doubt many would get a positive ID on someone violating the ban.

  32. Benji says:

    I think the mayor deserves major credit for this – it’s too easy for people in government to pass laws that sound good and simple on paper but that have serious flaws in details or enforceability.  There should be more people in politics who try to pass smart legislation instead of things that just look good on paper at first glance.

  33. Benji says:

    Not sure how municipal politics work, but in national politics – if Congress passes a bill and sends it to the President and the President doesn’t like it, he CANNOT rewrite it and send it back to Congress for them to revote on it.  It has to do with the separation of the executive and legislative branches of the government – the President is head of the executive branch and the writing and wording of legislation is a power reserved exclusively for the legislative branch.  The President could veto it and make a statement on what kind of similar bill he would approve but that’s about all he can do.

  34. DeepThorn says:

    He should have made the changes himself and sent it back IMO…  isn’t that how the legal system works?  You don’t like it but know what you would accept, so you make the changes yourself and sent it back?  Maybe I need a little refresher on how all this works… 

    General ban on use of electronic devices while driving should suffice.  May it be a cell phone, PDA (do people still use those?), gaming device, or other toy.  People need to focus on driving.  Too many people mess around with random things while driving when they should just be driving.

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