Are You One of the 114 Cited for Crossing the Street While Looking at a Mobile Device?

One year after it became illegal to look at your phone in a crosswalk, we check on Honolulu’s “cell phone law” and other mobile device-related legislation.


Distracted Crosswalkers

Don’t get caught red-handed. Put the phone down or pay a fine.
photo: david croxford


O‘ahu made national news last year when a new law made it illegal to cross the street while looking at many mobile electronic devices, such as a cell phone. The law, approved by the City Council and signed by Mayor Kirk Caldwell, was touted (and ridiculed) as the first of its kind in the country.


It’s been one year since the Honolulu Police Department began enforcing the law, which resulted in 114 citations from October 2017 to early July. In comparison, in the first five months of the city’s law banning drivers from using a mobile electronic device while operating a motor vehicle (July to December 2009), HPD handed out 4,988 citations. (The state passed the same law for drivers in 2013.)


Fines for each law differ drastically—as a pedestrian, you could be fined $15 for the first citation, and the amount increases according to the frequency, up to $99. Motorists face much stiffer penalties—driving while using a mobile device will land you a $250 fine, unless you get caught in a school zone or construction area. That will cost you $300.


As the issue of screen time has become a hot-button topic, we found that state lawmakers considered five bills in the past year about using cell phones and other mobile devices while driving. Although none of them passed, they’re still interesting to note.


  • House Bill 854: Sitting in rush-hour traffic and want to listen to that Oprah podcast or new song on your Pandora playlist? This bill would’ve allowed drivers to hold a mobile device that is being used solely for streaming music or other audio while driving.

  • Senate Bill 2119: This one raised some eyebrows—it would have required drivers involved in a serious accident and who are suspected of using a mobile electronic device to submit it to the police. Officers would use an electronic scanning device to determine if it was used while driving at or near the time of the accident. The bill also called for imposing penalties on drivers who don’t hand over their phones.

  • House Bill 2477: If you are a driver and need to use your phone, this bill would’ve allowed you to do that while at a complete stop.

  • Senate Bill 363 and House Bill 739: This pair of companion bills would have tripled the fines for drivers caught using mobile electronic devices to $750 (yikes!). If you’re caught in a school zone or construction area, it would cost you $900 (yikes for tykes!).    





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Honolulu Magazine October 2018
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