”’The Hawaii State House of Representatives debated this past session whether all cell phones — hand held or otherwise — should be illegal to use in automobiles.”’

”’Democrats argued people are incapable of driving safely and acting responsibly while operating a car with a cell phone in the car.”’

”’The majority of Republicans, 9 of 15, argued distractions other than cell phones cause many more accidents than does the use of cell phones. They cited the following report: AAA analyzed 26,245 accidents nationwide and reported of distracted driver crashes 30 percent occurred when the driver was focused on something outside of the car, 11 percent was caused by shifting focus to the CD or radio player; 10.9 percent were the result of distractions of other passengers; 1.7 percent was the result of eating or drinking while driving and 1.5 percent were distracted by the use of wireless phones.”’

”’The bill passed the House by a 41 to 9 vote, with the majority party voting to ban all cell phones in cars. Those who voted no, all Republicans, were Reps. Brian Blundell, Kika Bukoski, Lynn Finnegan, Galen Fox, Mark Jernigan, Colleen Meyer, Mark Moses, Guy Ontai and Bud Stonebraker, and Rep. Hiraki was excused.”’

”’The bill died in the Senate.”’

”’Rep. Mark Jernigan, R-Maui, was one of several Republicans to defend their yes vote with a floor speech, which is reprinted below to further the Battle of Ideas in Hawaii. A counter to Jernigan’s speech by Rep. Joe Souki, D-Maui, is also published today. See:”’ “Battle of Ideas: Make Cell Phones Illegal in Cars for the Safety of Hawaii’s Citizens”

Rep. Mark Jernigan rose to speak in opposition to the measure, stating:

I rise in opposition. I think the fact that being distracted by a cell phone is only a part of that. What are we going to outlaw? Eating in the car? Talking to occupants? Disciplining the children? Where is it going to stop? Who has control over it? One of the speakers indicated having two hands on the wheel. Are we going to pass a law that requires the hands be on the wheel at all times? It might be more appropriate.

I think it violates rights. It doesn’t address the real issue of safety in the car in a broader perspective. It just takes a small portion of the activity in the car and makes it illegal. It is going to be very difficult to enforce. The fact that it has to be up to your ears doesn’t seem to me like the appropriate way to address it. One of the previous speakers indicated that dialing the phone might be more hazardous. Does just having a wire going to your ear makes it legal? I think this bill needs some serious reconsideration so I am opposing it.

”’Mark Jernigan is the Republican Representative for the Big Island.”’

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