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Hawaii is the 3rd least car-dependent state in the country, according to a study conducted by US Insurance Agents. Around 19% of the state’s residents do not use a car to commute. 

However, drivers in the state seem to have a negative reputation. QuoteWizard researchers list Hawaii as No. 9 on their 2022 list of the worst drivers nationwide. The state ranks third in speeding-related tickets. Besides speeding, there are other common causes of car accidents in the state. According to the Hawaii Department of Transportation (HDOT), these are drunk and distracted driving.

Another statistic that could add to Hawaii’s poor reputation? Road quality. A 2023 report by ConsumerAffairs concludes that Hawaii's roads are the worst nationwide.

Filing a lawsuit after a car accident in the Aloha State might be overwhelming. Part of claiming compensation from the person responsible is knowing the state’s laws and regulations. In the following sections of the article, things like traffic violations and insurance requirements are explained in more detail. This guide could help you pursue your claims effectively.

Hawaii Speeding Laws

Under state law, no person shall operate a vehicle at a speed higher than prudent and reasonable. They must drive at a rate that considers a roadway’s potential and actual hazards. Over 47% of fatal crashes in 2021 involved a driver speeding, based on data from HDOT. 

Hawaii’s speed laws are simple to understand. In places like construction zones and school zones, people must stay under the speed limit. Those going over 30 miles per hour in these areas, or traveling 80 miles per hour on other roadways, may be charged with excessive speeding. To decrease these types of incidents, HDOT launched “No Excuses.” The campaign aims to educate riders about the importance of slowing down. It includes public service announcements aired on traditional and digital media outlets. 

The penalties for speeding can vary depending on multiple factors. These include whether the person has committed the offense for the first time or if they are charged with excessive speeding.

Those dealing with standard speeding tickets for the first time could pay a maximum of $200 in fines. Second-time offenders will have to face fines of up to $300 if convicted within a year, while third-time violators must pay as much as $500 in fines. A surcharge of $10 is also imposed for drivers traveling more than 10 miles per hour over the limit. On top of that, those caught driving too fast in school zones and construction zones owe a $250 fine as well as surcharges between $100 and $125. 

Hawaiians convicted of excessive speeding charges face higher penalties. First-time offenders must deal with fines between $500 and $1,000, a maximum 30-day license suspension, a $125 surcharge, and two to five days in jail. A court can order the offender to render 36 hours of community service as an alternative to prison. Those that violated the law for the second time face as much as $1,000 in fines, a license suspension that lasts a month, surcharges up to $125, between five days and two weeks in prison, and/or at least 120 hours of community service. 

For third-time violators, excessive speeding penalties can be steep. These include a $1,000 fine, license revocation for three months to a year, as much as $125 in surcharges, and one year in jail. 

Speeding offenders must attend a driver retraining course, regardless of their previous convictions.

Hawaii Drunk Driving Laws

The Aloha State uses the legal term “operating under the influence of an intoxicant,” or OVUII, to describe individuals driving a car while drunk. Authorities also use "driving under the influence" or DUI, in other cases. Regardless of the term, motorists are convicted for driving with a 0.08% or higher level of blood alcohol content (BAC). The limit does not apply to commercial drivers, though, as they must ensure their BAC level is below 0.04%. HDOT recorded over 60% of fatal accidents involving impaired drivers in 2021. 

As part of their efforts to reduce such incidents, local authorities and Mothers Against Drunk Driving partner for “Saturation Saturday." The nationwide campaign aims to educate motorists about the “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” initiative. Some state politicians also attempted to pass laws that decreased the legal BAC level from 0.08% to 0.05%, inspired by Utah’s regulations. So far, such legal initiatives have failed to garner support from other representatives. 

The penalties for Hawaiians found guilty of OVUII depend on the number of prior violations committed within the past decade. For instance, first-time offenders face a range of consequences. These include attending a 14-hour rehabilitation program, paying fines between $250 and $1,000, and performing 72 hours of community service. Their license may also be suspended for one year. 

Individuals who violate the law a second time face higher penalties. These may include fines ranging from $1,000 to $3,000, five to 30 days of jail time, a three-year license suspension, and 10 days of community service. There is an additional two-day prison sentence and a $500 fine for drunk drivers caught with a passenger under 15. 

Third-time offenders, meanwhile, are considered habitual DUI violators. They are charged with a class C felony, which carries a range of steep sanctions. These include five years of jail time, fines between $2,000 and $5,000, substance abuse counseling sessions, and vehicle forfeiture.

Hawaii Distracted Driving Laws

Driving while using electronic devices is banned under state law. These gadgets include cell phones, personal digital assistants, and MP3 players. The law also states that motorists under 18 may not use hands-free electronic devices while operating their vehicles. There are exceptions, however. People can use phones or radio systems in their cars if they are:

  • Reporting emergencies by calling 911

  • Communicating with other personnel as part of their work duties

  • Talking with other individuals as part of their privilege of holding an amateur radio operator license

  • Calling other people while their car is parked with the engine off and at a safe location. 

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) says that more than 14 people died in Hawaii because they were driving while distracted in just one year. Zutobi, a company that offers online driver education, ranked the Aloha State eighth on their list of the states with the highest prevalence of distracted driving.  

Part of the state’s efforts to lessen such incidents is by participating in “U Drive. U Text. U Pay,” a program under the NHTSA’s Distracted Driving Awareness Month campaign. Motorists caught disobeying the state’s laws must pay $250 in fines. If convicted of distracted driving in a construction area or a school zone, their fine goes up to $300. In some cases, someone operating their vehicle while completely disregarding people or property might be convicted of a reckless driving charge. The offense carries a $1,000 fine and/or a month in prison.

Hawaii Seat Belt Laws

Hawaiians need to buckle up before driving or traveling. However, the number of violators seems to be increasing. Data from NHTSA and HDOT shows that the number of people using seat belts in the state decreased to 94.3% in 2021 from 97% in 2019. Around 63% of those that died from automobile accidents were not buckled up. Another report, this time from the University of Hawaii, states further worrying trends:

  • The use of child restraint systems to secure toddlers plummeted to 63.6% in 2021 from 89.9% in 2020. 

  • Seat belt usage among the youth dropped to 82% in 2021 from 95.2% in 2020. 

To improve seat belt law compliance, state authorities continue to participate in Click It or Ticket, a campaign by the NHTSA. HDOT contacted a local PR firm to run media campaigns on TV stations like KHII and KITV. In addition to statewide media outreach programs, Hawaiian lawmakers passed Act 122. The bill updates, among other things, the age at which a child can still use a booster seat from eight to 10

It also changes the fines violators receive. For example, first-time offenders will pay up to $100 in fines and attend a safety class about child passenger restraint systems. They will also have to deal with a $50 driver education assessment and a $10 surcharge that goes directly into the state’s Neurotrauma Special Fund as well as a $10 surcharge that supports the Trauma System Special Fund if the court orders it.

Hawaii Minimum Auto Insurance Requirements

Drivers in the Aloha State are required to purchase auto insurance. These policies should comply with the minimum requirements established by the state government, which are:

  • $20,000 for the bodily injury of one person

  • $40,000 aggregate coverage per accident 

  • $10,000 for property damage

Hawaiians also need to obtain personal injury protection (PIP), with the minimum limit set at $10,000 per person. The policy covers a range of costs, from hospital bills to rehabilitation expenses. In addition to the policyholder, PIP insurance also covers drivers using the policyholder’s vehicle with their permission. Passengers, bicyclists, and pedestrians that were injured are covered as well. 

Under state law, motorists must always carry proof of insurance in their vehicles and present it to law enforcement personnel when requested. These documents can be paper-based or electronic-based as long as they contain the following information:

  • The serial number or identity of the factory and the make of the motor vehicle. Insurance companies, however, do not need to name such details for owners of five or more vehicles.

  • The effective coverage dates including the expiration date. 

  • The names of the insurance provider and the insured. 

  • The policy number.

Those apprehended by law enforcement personnel for driving without insurance are subjected to consequences. These penalties depend on their previous conviction history involving the charge. First-time violators, for example, might have to deal with up to $500 in fines and a license suspension that lasts 90 days or until proof is provided. Individuals seeking to avoid paying fines can opt to perform 75 to 100 hours of community service. 

Drivers convicted for the second time face a one-year license suspension, fines ranging from $1,500 to $5,000, and community service for 200 to 275 hours. Third-time offenders face similar sanctions as second-time violators, except for 30 days of jail time and revoked registration plates. 

Hawaii motorists tend to pay an average of $105 per month for auto insurance, as stated by the United Services Automobile Association.

Is Hawaii a no-fault state?

Yes. Hawaii joins 11 other states that adhere to a no-fault system. In such a setup, motorists pay their medical bills through their PIP insurance up to the policy’s limits. Following an accident, drivers must seek compensation from their own insurance provider, regardless of who is at fault. Car accident victims cannot sue liable parties unless they meet specific requirements. For example, the crash resulted in the wrongful death of an individual. Victims can also go to court if the accident caused severe disfigurement that led to emotional pain or a medical condition that will never go away. If their PIP benefits are calculated to be equal to or higher than $5,000, they can file claims as well.

Is Hawaii a modified comparative fault state?

Yes. Hawaii uses the 51% bar rule, which says that a plaintiff can't get compensation if they were more to blame for the accident than the defendant. If a victim is found to be 50% or less liable for the car crash, they can still recover compensation from the responsible party. The amount of compensation, however, will be reduced based on the victim's percentage of fault.  

To demonstrate this principle, let’s say you suffered damages totaling $10,000 after a car accident. If you were found to be 20% at fault for the collision, your recoverable damages would be reduced by $2,000. Your final compensation, then, will be $8,000.

Hawaii Statute of Limitations for Car Accidents

State law provides two years for victims seeking to recover damages from car accidents. The two-year window applies to anyone hurt in a vehicle accident. These individuals may include passengers, drivers, pedestrians, motorcyclists, and electric scooter riders. Similar filing deadlines are also applicable in cases involving lawsuits against state employees.

There are some instances where the clock does not begin from the date of the accident. For example, in wrongful death cases, the filing deadline starts running on the date of the victim’s death. In another instance, if a minor is injured in a car accident, the family can only file a suit once the victim turns 18

People who are considered legally insane have to get their minds back together before they can file a lawsuit.

Average Settlement for Hawaii Car Accident Lawsuits

On average, car accident victims in Hawaii receive $30,224 for a settlement involving moderate injuries. Those who have sustained minor bumps, bruises, and strains can acquire around $6,900. Individuals with severe injuries, however, recover more than $345,000. 

Hawaii joins Ohio and Idaho on the list of states with laws that cap non-economic damages. The Aloha State limits these to $375,000

Besides state laws, other factors might limit the recoverable amount. An instance of this is when crashes involve uninsured drivers. Someone with insurance specifically for that purpose can cover their medical expenses. Another example would be an accident involving multiple claimants. A single person's insurance policy might not be enough to cover the damages of two or more people.

Legal Resources for Hawaii Car Accident Victims

Hawaii Driver’s Manual

This document is meant to help new drivers in Hawaii learn about things like traffic signs and safe driving techniques. It also educates motorists about their license restrictions. Other information that helps minors understand their driving privileges is included as well. The manual is printed and published in collaboration with HDOT. 

Hawaii Department of Transportation

Individuals can sign up for an e-mail newsletter that updates them on the department’s notices regarding the state’s roadworks. Motorists can also check the organization’s website to find out the current regulations in place on matters like vehicle weight taxes and high occupancy vehicle lanes. Since there isn’t a statewide Department of Motor Vehicles, HDOT places links on its website where drivers can register their cars based on their county of residence. 

Hawaii Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs – Insurance Division

The division oversees and regulates the Aloha State’s insurance industry. It provides a dedicated page that guides residents through the process of filing claims with insurance providers to recover compensation for lava flow damage. The division also advises Hawaiians to report insurance fraud to (808) 587-7416 or send a letter to the organization at 335 Merchant Street, 2nd Floor, Honolulu, Hawaii, 96813. 

Volunteer Legal Services Hawai

The non-profit organization has been working with low- and moderate-income individuals for more than four decades. Its team has experience assisting clients through filing claims before the Small Claims Court. It also handles cases involving estate planning and family law. The firm counts the Hawai’i State Judiciary among its partners.

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