Honolulu City Council has approved a bill that would outlaw gaming and text messaging while driving, a move intended to strike at the very heart of the city’s notorious “gaming while driving” criminal underground.

The bill, which council approved by a 7-1 vote, would ban writing, sending and reading text messages or email, as well as playing videogames, while driving. Members of the council acknowledged the bill was flawed but said it was a good start toward a more comprehensive and effective ban on the use of handheld devices while driving. “Most citizens will abide by it so if we can prevent one accident, whether it be by texting or playing a video game, then the imperfect law on the books will have done its job,” said Councilman Nestor Garcia.

But Councilman Rod Tam, who cast the lone dissenting vote, didn’t share Garcia’s optimistic sentiment. “This is bad legislation – unenforceable – an embarrassing situation,” he said. Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann, who has the power to veto the bill, has apparently expressed similar concerns, as has the Honolulu Police Department.

“We would be unable to determine what a person is doing as opposed from texting, as opposed from downloading, as opposed from utilizing the phone for communication purposes,” said Traffic Division boss Maj. Thomas Nitta. Nitta said a more complete ban on in-car cellphone use would be easier to enforce, but efforts to impose such restrictions in 2002, 2005 and 2007 have all failed, leaving Hawaii and Alaska as the only U.S. states without prohibitions on cellphone use while driving.

A legal ban on playing with your DS while hurtling down the highway might seem like unnecessary, “feel-good” legislation since only an absolute moron would try such a thing anyway, but the truth is that the bill was introduced partly because of the suspension in September of a city bus driver who was in fact busted for playing a handheld game while on the job. And while it may have been monumentally stupid, Councilman Charles Djou, who introduced the bill, pointed out that it wasn’t actually illegal.

“Although the bus driver received some administrative punishment, there was nothing wrong or illegal with that bus driver engaging in that activity,” he said. “This Honolulu City Council needs to make a very clear statement that that sort of activity should not be allowed on our public roadways.”

It may be a bit tragic that the people of Honolulu “need” to be told that playing videogames while driving is a bad idea, they can at least take comfort in the fact that they’ll still be able to fart around with their built-in DVD players, satellite radios, in-dash GPS devices and super-jumbo drink holders.


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