Fines increase for cell use while driving

The fine for using a cellphone while driving increased to $297 at the start of the new fiscal year on Tuesday, the Maui Police Department said in announcing changes to the state mobile electronic device law.

Another change in the law reduced the severity of a violation from a traffic crime to a traffic infraction and removed the requirement to appear in court to deal with a citation, police said.

An exemption to the mobile electronic device law was added that basically allows drivers to use a cellphone by pulling off the road in a safe location out of the way of traffic and turning off their engine.

The law does allow for the use of a hands-free device while driving provided the driver is 18 years or older. Juveniles are prohibited from using a hands-free device. A citation for a juvenile using a hands-free device carries at $257 fine. The fine increases to $307 for juveniles using a hands-free device in a construction or school zone.

Drivers using cellphones in a school or construction zone face a $347 fine.

In the year since the state law took effect, Maui police have issued 968 citations for use of a mobile electronic device.

Before the changes, the fine for drivers using a cellphone was $100 for a first offense, $200 for a second offense within a year and $300 for a third offense within two years. The amounts were doubled in school or construction zones.