On May 20, the Governor of Hawaii, Neil Abercrombie, signed two important bills for traffic safety. One mandates that all occupants in a vehicle, whether sitting in the front or the back, must wear seat belts. The other bill prohibits drivers from using handheld mobile phones and texting (whether with a mobile phone or other handheld devices).
No texting while driving
With this move, Hawaii joins 39 other states that ban texting while driving. The state’s new distracted driving law mentions that its goal is to “prohibit activities such as texting, instant messaging, gaming, and e-mailing, which take a driver’s eyes off the road, mind off the road, and hands off the wheel.”
While the distracted driving law will apply from July 1, the new seat belt law went into effect as soon as Abercrombie signed. An AAA study revealed that 86% of Americans support laws against reading, typing or sending text messages or email while driving. The very same study also showed that more than one fourth of drivers surveyed had sent texts or emails while driving during the past month.
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.”
Back seat passengers must wear seat belts
Not wearing a seatbelt is a primary offense in Hawaii. But that’s not the only reason why you should wear a seat belt. The state’s new seatbelt law mentions an analysis of emergency medical service records revealed by the Department of Health. This analysis found that unrestrained back seat passengers were three times as likely to have fatal injuries or require hospitalization, as compared to restrained back seat passengers. Also, average medical charges for unbelted back seat passengers treated for injuries by emergency medical services ($11,043) were nearly three times the charges for restrained passengers. ($3,817).
Health Director Loretta Fuddy said, “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. We anticipate that we’ll see further reductions in injuries and death with the passage of this law for back seat passengers.”