Hawaii drivers be on alert: State lawmakers are considering huge increases to the fines for at least six different motor vehicle violations ranging from cell phones and seatbelts to excessive speed and drunken driving.

Sen. Lorraine Inouye, chair of the Senate Transportation and Energy Committee, is the lead sponsor of the legislation. The committee plans to hear the bills at 2 p.m. Wednesday in Conference Room 225 at the Capitol.

The fine for using a cell phone while driving would jump to $750 from $250 if Senate Bill 363 passes. It’d be $900 if you’re caught in a school zone or construction area.

Senator Lorraine Inouye questions Mayor caldwell during senate ways and means hearing. 7 april 2015. photograph by Cory Lum/Civil Beat
Sen. Lorraine Inouye and several other lawmakers have introduced bills to triple certain motor vehicle fines. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

The fine for not wearing your seatbelt would increase to $135 from $45 under Senate Bill 364.

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And if you’re caught speeding in a school zone or construction area, you’re facing a $750 fine, up from $250, if Senate Bill 663 passes.

Excessive speeding? The fine would be at least $1,500 but not more than $3,000 — triple the current range — if Senate Bill 664 is approved.

Drunken driving? The fine would be between $450 and $3,000 for a first offense, also triple the current range, under Senate Bill 659.

 And if Senate Bill 367 passes, the legislation would increase the fines for violations associated with a person operating a vehicle after the person’s license has been suspended for operating a vehicle under the influence of an intoxicant. For a first offense, the fine would be at least $750 but not more than $3,000 — again, triple the current range.

Honolulu police issued 10,464 citations for use of mobile electronic devices last year, a slight decrease from the previous year, KHON reported.

The Department of Transportation’s preliminary data for 2016 shows there were 109 fatal crashes in which 120 people died — an increase from 2014 and 2015. Speeding was a factor in 32 of them, and distracted driving or inattention factored into six.

Toxicology reports are still pending, but for the first half of 2016 the data indicates 23 of 47 fatal crashes involved alcohol or drugs, according to the department.

There were 4,733 arrests for operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol through the first  11 months of 2016, according to the department.

The Department of Transportation made its case for more state funding last month in a budget briefing with House lawmakers. Tripling fines did not come up but increasing taxes and fees did.

There’s concern about the impact that an increasing number of electric vehicles, hybrids and newer cars with better fuel economy will have on the gasoline tax that the department relies on to fund projects and provide services.

Lawmakers are aware of this dwindling revenue stream but have yet to find an answer. After it cleared the Senate in a split vote last year, House lawmakers killed a bill that would have increased taxes and fees on motor vehicles and fuel to help the department raise $70 million.

If the legislation to triple the fines for the various motor vehicle violations passes Wednesday its next stop is the Ways and Means Committee, chaired by Sen. Jill Tokuda.

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