Sunday, June 26, 2022 |
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An abandoned vehicle is towed down Hina-Lani Street in Kailua-Kona. (CHELSEA JENSEN/West Hawaii Today)
A Big Island lawmaker is spearheading a suite of bills aimed at reducing the amount of abandoned vehicles in Hawaii.
House bills 1411 through 1414, introduced in the state Legislature last week, three address the problem of abandoned vehicles by modifying penalties for violators, while the fourth closes a loophole that allowed vehicle owners to leave a car abandoned indefinitely.
According to HB 1411, 1,620 abandoned vehicles were reported on the Big Island, with more than 8,000 abandoned statewide the same year.
“In some cases, people can’t afford to keep up with the registration, so they dump their cars,” said Puna Rep. Greggor Ilagan, who co-introduced all four bills. “Sometimes people leave the state and can’t afford to ship their cars to the mainland. Stolen vehicles get dumped on the side of the road. Or a person can’t get their car towed to the disposal site.”
Ilagan said the bills he has introduced this session focus on policy changes that don’t require significant financial investment by the state or county.
HB 1411, 1413 and 1414 deal with penalties for violators, although the scope of those penalties is currently undefined.
HB 1411 requires that, when a vehicle is sold to a new owner, both the buyer and the seller provide their addresses to the certificate of ownership and that failing to do so or providing false information is subject to some form of unspecified penalty. Ilagan said this bill will, at the very least, provide law enforcement agencies with a paper trail to more easily determine the owner of an abandoned vehicle.
HB 1413 allows county finance directors to withhold issuing a certificate of vehicle registration or completing a transfer of vehicle ownership to a person who owes outstanding fines relating to abandoned vehicles, while HB 1414 sets a tiered system of fines for vehicle owners who abandon their cars — a first violation would incur a fine of an unspecified amount, while subsequent violations within a certain length of time would incur larger fines.
The last bill, HB 1412, closes a loophole that had allowed vehicle owners to prevent their cars from actually being legally designated “abandoned vehicles.”
“It’s clear that there have been interruptions in the process when the owner of an abandoned vehicle simply moves it,” Ilagan said, explaining that owners are able to keep their vehicles from being deemed “abandoned” by just moving them a few feet periodically.
“You get these junkyards where they’ve moved a car like a foot or so, and that resets the whole process and it becomes an eyesore,” Ilagan said.
Under HB 1412, counties would be able to require that a vehicle be moved a certain minimum distance, to be determined by the county, in order to avoid the “abandoned” designation.
Ilagan said that, after any of the bills pass this session, he intends to meet with officials in each of the counties to discuss the best implementation of the measures.
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