Understand Hawaii’s distracted driving laws and find out how to seek compensation if you’ve been injured by a distracted driver
Learn about the dangers of distracted driving in Hawaii, the state's laws, and the steps to take after an accident.
Imagine driving along the breathtaking Hawaiian coastline, the sun setting over the horizon when suddenly, your tranquil drive is shattered by the sound of screeching tires and crunching metal.
In an instant, your life is changed by a driver who was too busy snapping a picture of the scenery to notice the vehicle in front of them.
This scenario, unfortunately, is all too common in today’s world of constant connectivity and distractions. In this article, we’ll explore the laws designed to prevent distracted driving car accidents, as well as provide valuable information for those who have been injured in a distracted driving accident.
What is distracted driving?
The phrase “distracted driving” refers to any activity that takes a driver’s attention away from the road.
Distracting activities tend to fall into one of three categories:
- Cognitive distractions take your mind off the road (for example, talking on the phone or to a passenger).
- Visual distractions take your eyes off the road (for example, watching videos or adjusting the radio).
- Manual distractions take your hands off the wheel (for example, grooming or eating).
There are all kinds of activities that can be distracting to a driver, including everything from talking to passengers to adjusting radio controls. With that being said, texting and driving is considered particularly dangerous because it falls into all three categories of distractions.
According to the Hawaii Department of Transportation, in the time it takes you to read a one-sentence text message, you’ll have traveled the length of a football field if you were driving a car at 55 miles per hour.
Distracted driving laws in Hawaii
In Hawaii, there are specific laws in place to combat distracted driving. Here’s what you need to know:
|Hawaii distracted driving laws
Haw. Rev. Stat. § 291C-137 (2021)
|For drivers 18 and older:||For drivers under the age of 18:|
|Using a handheld electronic communication device is strictly prohibited.
Using a hands-free device is permitted.
|Using a handheld electronic communication device is strictly prohibited.
Using a hands-free device is prohibited.
|Electronic devices can be used to call 9-1-1.||Electronic devices can be used to call 9-1-1.|
Violations of these laws are considered primary offenses, meaning a police officer can pull a driver over for the sole reason of violating Hawaii's distracted driving laws.
A distracted driving violation carries a $250 fine in most cases. An enhanced fine will apply if the distracted driving violation occurred in a school or construction zone or if the motorist who receives the distracted driving ticket was operating a commercial vehicle.
Is distracted driving common in Hawaii?
Distracted driving is a huge problem nationwide. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), distracted driving claimed 3,522 lives in 2021 alone.
Unfortunately, Hawaiians are just as distracted as the rest of the country. A 2020 report from the Hawaii Department of Transportation (HDOT) found that distracted driving was a contributing factor in 26 percent of all fatal crashes in the state.
How to recover damages after a distracted driving accident in Hawaii
Hawaii is one of a handful of states that is considered a no-fault state, which means your motor vehicle insurance company will pay the bills for your injuries and your passengers’ injuries up to the policy limits, and you cannot sue or be sued unless there are serious injuries.
If your accident results in serious injuries (i.e., the costs associated with the injuries exceed the limits of your car insurance policy), the at-fault driver will be responsible for the damages.
In Hawaii, proving that a driver is at-fault typically means proving they were negligent.
Negligence is defined as “the failure to exercise reasonable care to prevent harm to someone else on the road.” If the plaintiff can prove that the defendant was using a cell phone (or engaged in some other distracting activity) when the accident occurred, they can generally establish negligence.
In Hawaii, “no-fault” only applies to injuries, not to vehicles or property. As a result, the driver-at-fault in an accident is responsible for damages to vehicles and property.
Steps to take after a distracted driving accident
There are some steps you can take after a distracted driving accident to maximize your chances of receiving the compensation you deserve:
- Step 1. Seek medical attention: Obtain medical help for anyone who needs it (including yourself). Hawaii requires drivers to render “reasonable assistance” to anyone injured in a motor vehicle accident. This means calling 9-1-1 if someone is hurt.
- Step 2. Call the police: The police will conduct an investigation and file a police report. The police report may be used to help support an insurance claim or even a lawsuit down the road.
- Step 3. Gather evidence: Gather any evidence you can find. Distracted driving can be difficult to prove, so it’s important to obtain any evidence that might be available. If there are witnesses, take down their contact information. Similarly, take photographs of the scene, including any injuries.
- Step 4. Find an attorney: An experienced personal injury attorney will be able to conduct their own investigation into the accident. This may include requesting the other driver’s phone records to prove they were using their phone at the time of the accident or deposing the passengers to find out what they observed the driver doing in the moments before the crash.
- Step 5. Avoid social media: Avoid talking about the accident on social media. One of the first things a defense attorney will do is review all of your social media accounts for information that may hurt your case. The wisest course of action is to avoid posting about the accident altogether.
Tips to avoid distracted driving
The unfortunate reality is that although people know it’s wrong to check their phones while driving, most people do it anyway.
Here are some tips from the National Safety Council (NSC) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to help prevent distracted driving accidents:
- Put your phone away: Before starting your car, place your phone in a location where it cannot be easily reached, such as the glove compartment or a bag.
- Use hands-free technology: If you must make a call, use Bluetooth or other hands-free devices (so long as you are over the age of 18).
- Set your GPS before driving: Enter your destination before starting your journey to avoid distractions while on the road.
- Limit eating and drinking: Try to avoid eating or drinking while driving, as these activities can take your focus away from the road.
- Keep conversations light: Avoid engaging in emotional or complex conversations with passengers that may cause cognitive distractions.
- Secure children and pets: Make sure children and pets are properly secured in their seats or carriers before starting your drive.
- Pull over when necessary: If you must attend to an urgent matter, pull over to a safe location before addressing the issue.
- Use your passengers: Ask your passengers to help with tasks like adjusting the radio, temperature, or other vehicle controls.
- Focus on the road: Keep your mind on driving and avoid daydreaming or engaging in other activities that may cause cognitive distractions.
- Practice defensive driving: Be aware of your surroundings, anticipate potential hazards, and maintain a safe following distance from other vehicles.
Distracted driving is a serious issue that causes accidents, injuries, and fatalities in Hawaii and across the United States. By understanding Hawaii's distracted driving laws and taking steps to prevent distractions, you can help make the roads safer for everyone.
If you have been injured in a distracted driving accident, it is essential to consult with a knowledgeable car accident attorney who can help you navigate the legal process and pursue the compensation you deserve.