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Car trouble Kenoi ticketed for talking on cellphone while driving Kim’s 2009 accident cost county $100K

HILO — When Mayor Billy Kenoi signed a Hawaii County bill into law in 2009 banning hand-held cellphones while driving, he acknowledged that people will have to learn to change their behavior, including himself.

Apparently, old habits die hard.

Honolulu police cited Kenoi on Sept. 20 for operating a motor vehicle while using a mobile device, according to court records. He faces a $269 fine for that charge and for a charge of not producing driver’s license or insurance card, according to the report in the Traffic Division of 1st Circuit Court.

“I have a Bluetooth hands-free device I use in my own car, but unfortunately I was in a rental car,” Kenoi said Wednesday. “And my driver’s license was in my bag, so I couldn’t produce it right away.”

Oahu’s law, similar to Hawaii County’s law that was enacted the same year, prohibits driving while using a hand-held phone.

Kenoi, signing the Hawaii law, had said in a news release, “Many people will have to change their behavior as a result of this legislation, including me. But if it saves lives, prevents injuries and property damage, using a hands-free device is a small price to pay.”

Kenoi said he was driving on Nimitz Highway on the way to the Honolulu International Airport when he was pulled over. He noted that he obviously has a driver’s license, or he wouldn’t have been able to rent the car.

“I take full responsibility,” Kenoi said. “I paid my fine; lesson learned.”

Kenoi isn’t the only mayoral candidate who’s had troubles on the road. In 2008, his last year in office, former Mayor Harry Kim was found at fault in a traffic accident that cost the county $99,500 after the occupants of the other car sued. The county is self-insured and Kim was driving a county car, so the settlement came from the general fund.

Kim said he hasn’t had any traffic violations since then.

The crash happened at the intersection of Kanoelehua Avenue and East Palai Street, when Kim apparently made a left-hand turn into the path of a rental car driven by Paul Belise, according to court records. Debbie Belise, in the passenger seat, received injuries to her face resulting in eye surgery.

They filed suit Sept. 23, 2008, and the case was settled Oct. 16, 2009.

“There’s no excuse for it,” Kim said Wednesday. “I misjudged the distance. and I was at fault.”