WHEELER ARMY AIRFIELD, Hawaii - Recent deadly crashes involving drivers distracted by text messaging while behind the wheel prompted an executive order banning federal employees from texting while driving.

The White House released the order banning federal employees from texting while driving, Oct. 1.

The executive order, citing the many safety risks associated with texting while driving, is a legally binding order to Federal Administrative Agencies, given by the President, acting as the head of the Executive Branch.

The executive order states government employees should lead by example and refrain from texting while driving.

Nearly 3 million civilian employees are covered under this order, which directs federal workers to refrain from text messaging when driving a government vehicle, when driving a personal vehicle while on official government business, or when using electronic equipment supplied by the government while driving.

"These policies and regulations are important to the safety of drivers, passengers and other drivers on the road as they eliminate possible distractions, like text messaging, in a vehicle," said Clint German, safety specialist, U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii (USAG-HI).

Driving is a "divided attention task" meaning a driver's attention is split between the road, other cars, traffic signals, radio, etc. When drivers use their phone and send text messages, they are no longer paying attention to the road, according to Dave Brown, law enforcement branch chief, USAG-HI.

"Drivers need to remain cognizant while driving and maintain situational awareness while in control of a vehicle," Brown added.Aca,!E+

The State of Hawaii and USAG-HI have similar laws and policies already in place that restrict the use of cell phones or electronic devices while driving.

According to military police (MP) records, between January 2008-October 2009, military police issued 43 citations for violation of the USAG-HI cell phone policy across the 22 Army installations in Hawaii.

"Some may think the enforcement of cell phone laws is difficult, but we continue to remain observant and vigilant on patrols and cite people who violate the cell phone policy," Brown said. "We also keep the public informed and educated on these current policies."

Effective July 1, the State of Hawaii initiated a law prohibiting the use of mobile electronic devices while operating a motor vehicle. The law's purpose is to make Hawaii roadways safer for motorists, pedestrians and bicyclists. The fine for a first time offense is $67, according to the Honolulu Police Department.

Although many of these policies overlap, combined, all of these regulations and polices promote safety on roads and highways and emphasize the potential serious consequences of texting while driving.

Punishment for texting while driving on Army installations
While driving on Army installations in Hawaii, people cited for using cell phones will be subject to a suspension of their driving privileges.
Aca,!AcFirst time offenders will be subject to a 14-day suspension.
Aca,!AcSecond time offenders will lose driving privileges for 30 days.
Aca,!AcA third offense will result in a 180-day suspension. Driving with a suspended license will result in driving privileges being suspended for five years and further offenses may result in extended suspension periods, revocation of driving privileges or debarment from Army installations on Oahu.