After a hair-raising trip along the Road to Hana on Maui (600 twists and turns each way!) I started thinking about the road rules in Hawaii.

While I had always heard that in the US it was your constitutional right not to wear a seat belt this is clearly fake news because wearing a seat belt is compulsory. The fine for not wearing one starts at USD$102 (in NSW the driver not wearing a seatbelt faces a fine of $337 plus more if there are passengers not wearing a seat belt).

Helmet wearing is entirely optional either on a motor bike or on a bicycle (in NSW there is a $673 fine for not wearing a helmet on a motor cycle). Mind you I did not see too many motor cycles during our two-week trip and even then, nothing more powerful than a small scooter. The automobile is king on the islands.

Texting is not allowed and attracts a fine of $250 ($337 in NSW) while driving, but we saw plenty of it. An interesting road rule, recently introduced to tackle the spike in pedestrian deaths involves crossing the street while on your phone which attracts a fine of $35 for your first offence up to $99 for your third.

The one rule I thought was curious was that you can travel in the tray of a pick-up (Aussie translation is ute) but only if you are over 16. In NSW you cannot travel in a part of a vehicle not designed for passengers and there is a maximum fine of $2,000 for doing so.

The drinking age in Hawaii is 21 and the legal limit for drivers is 0.08 (0.05 in NSW). First offenders cop a fine of about $150 up to $1,000 (in NSW $1,100 for low range, $2,200 for mid range and $3,300 if you test high range).

Hawaii no longer has a cumulative points system and many ‘minor’ traffic offences such as speeding or improper lane changes have been converted to civil penalties only with no requirement to attend court.

The state of Hawaii had 106 road fatalities last year compared to NSW’s 392 – that is 3.7 times the number of deaths in NSW compared to Hawaii. However, the population of NSW is 5.3 times the population of Hawaii. While the population of both NSW and Hawaii are swollen with tourists, the statistics do suggest a higher rate of road fatalities on the islands.

To me it seems the penalties in Hawaii are lighter than those in NSW and perhaps the people pay for that with a higher fatality rate.

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