Ige signs abandoned car bill

  • Abandoned vehicles are left on the side of Mamalahoa Highway in South Kona in this file photo from June 2016. (LAURA RUMINSKI/West Hawaii Today)

HILO — In an effort to improve Hawaii’s public roads, Gov. David Ige signed a bill Wednesday that requires counties to remove abandoned vehicles within 10 days of their abandonment.

House Bill 2442 went into effect immediately after Ige signed it Wednesday.

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The final version of the bill not only requires counties to take possession of abandoned vehicles within 10 business days of abandonment, but also repeals a statute that required counties to dispose of vehicles through public auctions. While public auctions are allowed as options to dispose of confiscated vehicles, no county is required to hold one.

Counties also are required to give notice to the owners of abandoned vehicles about the status and location of their vehicle. If owners do not recover their vehicles within 10 business days, the vehicles will be disposed of.

While the bill states that counties should address vehicles within 10 business days of abandonment, Rep. Chris Todd (D-Hilo), who co-introduced the bill in January, said most vehicles will be dealt with within 10 days of discovery.

The bill also adds additional language to existing statutes defining derelict vehicles. A vehicle is considered derelict if it is inoperable and if any of the following are true: the vehicle has been unregistered for the previous year; its license plates have been removed; its registered owners no longer reside at their address on record; a new owner has not transferred the vehicle into his or her own name; or if no record exists of the vehicle ever being registered in the county.

Vehicles that are declared derelict are taken directly to waste-metal recovery sites. The additional definitions for derelict vehicles allow the county to keep more storage space open for operable cars, rather than keep unclaimed and undrivable cars in storage.

“It’s been an issue probably forever,” Todd said, regarding the problem of abandoned vehicles.

While many of the complaints about abandoned vehicles merely describe them as nuisances or eyesores, some complaints raise the question of public health and safety.

“Some of these cars are just left on blocks, and if kids get in there, they can get seriously hurt,” Todd said.

Rep. Cedric Gates (D-Waianae), another co-introducer of the bill, reported that an abandoned car burst into flames not far from his residence shortly before the bill’s introduction, Todd said.

Todd said there were concerns about whether counties would have the resources to collect abandoned cars within such a time frame, but he believes that those concerns have been alleviated as the bill has evolved.

At a late March testimony hearing, the state Department of Transportation opposed the bill because it would require the department to “adopt rules for functions undertaken by other government agencies.”

However, at the same hearing, William Kucharski, director of the county’s Department of Environmental Management, wrote “the 10-day custody provision is not considered necessary by the (county) since it is the practice of (the county) to have abandoned vehicles removed within six days of abandonment.”

“If the government can’t get something done about a car in 10 days, maybe there’s a bigger problem that needs addressing,” Todd said.

Ige signed two other bills Wednesday as well. One, House Bill 2215, requires that drivers passing bicyclists traveling in the same direction must maintain at least three feet of separation between the right side of their vehicles and the left side of the cyclists.

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The other bill, House Bill 2596, requires boat owners to apply for a certificate of title within 20 days of becoming an owner or using a boat in the state.

Email Michael Brestovansky at mbrestovansky@hawaiitribune-herald.com