HDOT and its partners remind drivers to “Put the phone away or pay,” for Distracted Driver Awareness Month

Posted on Apr 15, 2024 in Highways News, Main, News

HONOLULU – The Hawaiʻi Department of Transportation (HDOT), the county police departments and the U.S. Department of Transportation National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) are encouraging motorists to “Put the Phone Away or Pay” for Distracted Driver Awareness Month this April.

According to NHTSA, “Sending or reading a text takes your eyes off the road for five seconds. At 55 mph, that’s like driving the length of an entire football field with your eyes closed.”

In 2023, the Honolulu Police Department (HPD) cited more than 4,700 individuals for operating a vehicle while using a cell phone. HDOT preliminary traffic data from the same year shows 26 of the 119 drivers involved in fatal crashes were reported to have been distracted by an outside factor such as cell phone use, another person in the vehicle, or an activity unrelated to driving (e.g., smoking, eating, etc.). In 2024, that figure stands at six out of 35 drivers by the end of March. However, distracted driving can’t be discounted as a contributing factor because drivers seldom admit to it and evidence of distracted driving can be difficult to obtain.[1]

Drivers can expect to see more enforcement of Hawaiʻi’s Mobile Electronic Device Law, which has recently increased penalties to $400 for drivers who are caught operating a vehicle and using a cell phone within a school zone or construction area (Hawaiʻi Revised Statutes [HRS] 291C-104 and 171).    

“When you’re stuck in traffic it can be tempting to look at your phone,” said Hawaiʻi Department of Transportation Director Ed Sniffen. “But non-driving actions significantly increase your risk of causing a crash. As a passenger, remind your driver to pay attention to the road. As a parent, remind your keiki about the responsibilities that come with driving. And as a driver, focus on the road and keep your passengers and road users safe.”

Each county police department will conduct its own enforcement and community events in observance of Distracted Driver Awareness Month. HPD will host a training session through its Law Enforcement Explorers Program to teach keiki about distracted driving, how to observe violations, and the hazards of distracted driving.

The Kauaʻi and Maui Police Departments have committed to using best practices to spot distracted drivers and step up distracted driving enforcement in key high-traffic areas in their communities throughout the month of April.

The Hawaiʻi County Police Department, in partnership with HDOT, Kaʻū High & Pahala Elementary School, and Nāʻālehu Elementary School, will lead a community event to gear up keiki, and those who commute by walking, with blinking lights and other pedestrian safety supplies to enhance visibility to drivers on their commute.

HDOT reminds drivers to limit distractions while driving, put the phone away, and focus on your drive. For more information on NHTSA’s “Put the Phone Away or Pay” campaign, please visit their site here: https://www.nhtsa.gov/campaign/distracted-driving






[1] “Crashes Involving Cell Phones: Challenges of Collecting and Reporting Reliable Crash Data”, National Safety Council White Paper, May 2013. https://www.nsc.org/getmedia/2e33083e-5bfb-4f21-98b7-0706bdc3af4d/nsc-under-reporting-white-paper.pdf.aspx