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Letters | 5-31-14

May 31, 2014 - 12:05am

Seat belt trap ensnares visitors

In March of this year, my wife and I, along with two other couples, visited your wonderful island of Hawaii. We had a terrific time, enjoying the hospitality and aloha spirit of everyone we met. We were so impressed with the people and natural beauty of your island that we planned a return trip with our son and his family.

But that has all changed because of one unfortunate incident.

Three of us were riding on Alii Drive to Kailua Pier in a convertible with my wife in the backseat. We are from Michigan, which does not require an adult in the backseat to wear a seat belt. Several police officers were directing cars to pull over where the driver or passenger was not wearing a seat belt. The two of us in the front were wearing seat belts, but my wife in the backseat was not. The officer was obviously chagrined and apologized about having to write us a ticket, but said we could write a letter to the court that we were unaware of Hawaii’s rear seat belt requirement. We did, and were denied.

This is my concern. This “seat belt trap” is obviously a crass attempt to raise revenue and it targets the very people — tourists — who largely support the economy of Hawaii. If the focus of this enforcement was to foster safety, it could have been accomplished in a more tourist-friendly manner by issuing a warning or a handout prepared for car rental agencies to provide to their customers. These types of actions would create a much more positive image of concern by Hawaii authorities than the blatant pursuit of ticket revenue.

It is too late for us, as we have paid our fine. However, in the spirit of aloha, I urge authorities to re-examine their current practice. This practice is not reflective of the true culture of Hawaii.

Rich Solak

Grosse Pointe, Mich.