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AAA Hawaii Applauds Passage Of New Traffic Safety Laws

AAA Hawaii applauds the passage of two key traffic safety measures that will help to reduce vehicle-related deaths and injuries to Hawaii residents and Aloha State visitors.  The new measures include a mobile electronic device ban and a universal (all riders, all seats) seat belt use bill signed into law by Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie at a bill signing ceremony today at the capitol.  

Forty states now prohibit texting for all drivers following the signing of Hawaii’s new law.

Hawaii’s universal (all riders, all seats) seat belt law is effective immediately as the bill signing ceremony coincides with this week’s National “Click It or Ticket” campaign that focuses on nationwide safety belt use, education and enforcement to save lives and reduce injuries.  The mobile electronic device ban to help reduce distracted driving goes into effect on July 1.  AAA Hawaii and others supported both bills.

 “AAA Hawaii wants to thank Senator Clayton Hee (SB4) and Representative Joseph M. Souki (HB980) for improving traffic safety by modifying Hawaii’s seat belt law and also establishing a distracted driving statute since these measures will help reduce deaths and injuries related to crashes,” said AAA Hawaii General Manager Liane Sumida.  “We appreciate their hard work to develop legislation that benefits the people of Hawaii in such a significant way.”

Senate Bill 4 makes seat belts or child passenger restraints mandatory for all passengers, regardless of age, and regardless of whether they’re sitting in the front or rear seats of a vehicle while traveling on Hawaii public highways.    Penalties for violating the universal (All Rider) seat belt law are unchanged from the previous law, where a driver is subject to a $92 fine.  

“Supporting the universal seat belt law (all riders, all seats) and the distracted driving-electronic communications device ban provided us with a platform to address important traffic safety issues and showcase our brand’s strength in Hawaii,” added Steve Finnegan, manager, government and community affairs, AAA Hawaii and the Automobile Club of Southern California.  “By securing amendments to improve the distracted driving bill, we continued to strengthen key relationships with legislators and law enforcement.  During the legislative process, many told us that AAA’s support was integral to keeping the bills moving forward.” 

Seat belt use can reduce the chance of death or injury to drivers and passengers involved in an accident. As a result, many states have enacted seat belt laws.  A belted rear seat passenger is considered effective in reducing not only injuries to the rear seat passengers but also injuries to front seat occupants, according to traffic safety studies. 

AAA analysis and traffic safety research studies have shown that an unbelted occupant in a vehicle increases the risk of injury or death to other occupants in the vehicle by as much as 40 percent.  When rear occupants wear a seat belt, it’s estimated that the number of injured drivers and front seat passengers decreases by approximately 25 percent and 28 percent respectively.

Passengers sitting in back seats should use safety belts for the same reasons they should use them in the front seat: to reduce serious injuries and fatalities in a crash.  Lap and shoulder belts reduce the risk of fatal injury by 44 percent among backseat occupants in passenger cars and 73 percent among backseat occupants in vans and sport utility vehicles (SUVs), according to traffic safety studies.

Fifty-four percent of the 130,854 passenger vehicle occupants who were killed in the U.S, from 2006-2010 were not wearing seat belts at the time of the fatal crashes, according to NHTSA figures. In Hawaii, the number of unrestrained fatalities was 15 in 2011.  

The distracted driving law (HB980) prohibits the use of cell phones and other mobile electronic devices while operating a motor vehicle and prohibits texting, instant messaging, gaming and e-mailing which take a driver’s eyes and mind off the road and hands off the steering wheel.  The law also prohibits drivers under age 18 from operating a motor vehicle while using a hands-free mobile electronic device, except for 9-1-1 emergency calls.

Recent National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) research shows that nearly 6,000 people died in 2008 in crashes involving a distracted or inattentive driver, which represents approximately 16 percent of fatal crashes.  More than 500,000 people were injured in these collisions.  

In 2007, the Hawaii Dept. of Transportation’s data showed that 8,770 collisions occurred and 2,871, or 32 percent, were attributed to inattention to driving.

Drivers who violate the new mobile electronic device law are subject to: for a first violation a fine up to $200, up to $300 for a second violation that occurs within one year and for violations that occur within two years and for the fourth and subsequent violations regardless of when committed, up to $500.  Penalties double if the violation of the new law occurs in a school zone or construction area.  

About Sen. Clayton Hee

Sen. Hee, 23rd Senatorial District, has served in the Hawaii State Senate since 1984. He is chair of the Senate Judiciary and Labor Committees.  Sen. Hee also is a member on the Hawaiian Affairs and Tourism and Government Operations committees.

About Rep. Souki

Rep. Souki is a member of the House of Representatives, representing District 8 since 1982.  He currently serves as Speaker of the House and is the chair of the House Committee on Transportation. Rep. Souki also sits on the House Committee on Consumer Protection & Commerce, Judiciary, Labor & Public Employment and Public Safety.

About AAA Hawaii

AAA Hawaii has served members since 1921. Today, AAA Hawaii provides services to its 137,000 members that include roadside assistance, maps, international and domestic travel planning and reservations; pedestrian and traffic safety programs; and auto, home and life insurance services. Information about these products and services is available on AAA Hawaii’s web site at

Media Contacts

Liane Sumida

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AAA Hawai'i is a member club affiliated with the American Automobile Association (AAA) national federation and serves members in the state of Hawai'i.