East Hawaii News

DOT: Distracted Driving Awareness Month

April 1, 2015, 10:35 AM HST
* Updated April 1, 10:39 AM
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April has been declared as National Distracted Driving Awareness Month. Officials from the Hawai’i Department of Transportation, county police departments, Toyota Hawai’i, and other traffic safety partners emphasized the dangers of distracted driving at the kickoff of the awareness month on Tuesday at the State Capitol.

A new state-of-the-art simulator was also unveiled by DOT at the event. The simulator allows drivers to go through a variety of situations, experiencing the consequences of distracted driving. Included in the scenarios is crashing into objects, other vehicles, and pedestrians.

DOT officials say that the simulator is the only one of its kind in Hawai’i, and works as a realistic digital simulation system with high-tech goggles and rotating turntables connected to a car. Throughout the year, the simulator will be used in school presentations and local safety fairs around the state.

“Distracted driving is a real problem on our roadways,” DOT Director Ford Fuchigami said. “Too many people think it’s okay to text, talk on the phone, or play with their mobile devices while driving, but doing so may lead to real consequences and unnecessary tragedies. Unlike the simulator, you can’t just hit the reset button in real life.”

Drivers using hand-held devices are four times more likely to get into vehicle crashes that are serious enough to injure themselves or others, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. DOT has also presented information based on research saying that drivers in their 20’s make up 27 percent of the distracted drivers in fatal crashes.

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In an attempt to reach the younger audiences, DOT recently hosted a competition for students attending the University of Hawai’i at Manoa’s Department of Communications and the Academy for Creative Media. Interested students submitted original concepts and scripts for a public service announcement that was to focus on distracted driving.

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Haruna Tamanaka won the contest and was presented with a $500 check from Toyota Hawai’i during the National Distracted Driving Awareness Month kick-off.

Tamanaka’s concept and script will be professionally produced and then broadcast on television and in movie theatres throughout the state over the summer.

“We received an impressive number of submissions for the PSA contest,” Fuchigami said. “Our goal in working with UH students was to have the age group most affected by these tragedies create a powerful and relatable message for their peers.  We are very happy with the results and are excited to share Ms. Yamanaka’s PSA with everyone this summer.”

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State law bans motor vehicle operators from using hand-held mobile electronic devices while they operate a motor vehicle. Officials say the use of cellular phones, mp3 players, personal digital assistants, navigation devices, and electronic tablets are all included in the ban.

Violators face a fine beginning at $257. Higher fines are faced when in a school or construction zone.

Over 11,000 distracted driving citations were issued statewide in 2014, according to DOT, who says the number indicates that the issues is “pervasive and serious.”

“While anything that takes your eyes off of the road, hands off of the wheel, or mind off of the task of driving is a hazard, there is a heightened concern about the risks of texting while driving because it combines all three types of distraction – visual, manual and cognitive,” Fuchigami said.  “It’s best to turn off your phone or mobile electronic device and put it in the trunk, glove compartment or back seat where you won’t be tempted to look at it or use it.”

To obtain more information on the dangers of distracted driving, visit the Distracted Driving website.

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Senator Clarence Nishihara takes part in a Distracted Driving simulator that provides a realistic digital driving scenario using a high-tech set of video goggles and rotating turntables connected to a real car. HDOT photo.

Senator Clarence Nishihara takes part in a Distracted Driving simulator that provides a realistic digital driving scenario using a high-tech set of video goggles and rotating turntables connected to a real car. HDOT photo.

Contest winner Haruna Yamanaka (center) was presented with a $500 check by Glenn Inouye of Servco Pacific (right) and HDOT Deputy Director Jade Butay (left) during Tuesday's event. Her winning concept and script will be professionally produced and broadcast on television and in movie theaters statewide over the summer. HDOT photo.

Contest winner Haruna Yamanaka (center) was presented with a $500 check by Glenn Inouye of Servco Pacific (right) and HDOT Deputy Director Jade Butay (left) during Tuesday’s event. Her winning concept and script will be professionally produced and broadcast on television and in movie theaters statewide over the summer. HDOT photo.

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