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Wednesday, May 12, 1999



FAST AND DEADLY

Statistics show that speeding
is responsible for a rising number
of fatalities on Oahu, and motorists
are getting more aggressive

By Jaymes K. Song
Star-Bulletin

Tapa

Speed is killing Oahu motorists.

And more people are speeding than ever before.

Speeding was the leading cause of traffic fatalities on Oahu last year, accounting for 27.8 percent of the 63 deaths, according to police statistics. Drunken driving accounted for 6.7 percent. A combination of speed and alcohol was blamed in 24.5 percent of the fatalities.

This year, 17 people have died in 16 crashes on Oahu roadways, and speeding was a factor in half of the crashes.

Capt. Bryan Wauke of the Honolulu Police Department's Traffic Division said "alcohol gets a lot of attention" but speeding has to be addressed.

Programs such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving have helped bring down the drunken-driving death toll to the lowest numbers in 30 years. And police hope some programs will be created to deter speeding.


By Ken Sakamoto, Star-Bulletin
Honolulu Police Officer William Axt and fellow
Officer William Baldwin pull over
a speeding motorist on H-1.



Meanwhile, police are cracking down on heavy-footed drivers.

But even with beefed-up enforcement, drivers are still going faster and faster, police said.

HPD issued 28,657 speeding citations in 1998. On average, that's one ticket issued last year for every 20 registered drivers on Oahu.

Violations are 32 percent higher than the previous year's total of 21,791 and nearly double 1996's total of 15,835.

Police say they also have noticed more people driving aggressively -- changing lanes more frequently, tailgating, not slowing down for pedestrians and running yellow and red lights.

And aggressive driving can lead to "road rage."

So why are people driving faster and more recklessly?

Police suggested it's because of congestion on the island's roadways and people becoming more impatient.

University of Hawaii psychology professor Leon James -- who has studied driving habits for 20 years and is nicknamed "Dr. Driving" -- said it is a "cultural norm to drive fast and aggressively."

Driver education doesn't start as a teen-ager, James said; it begins at childhood. Children absorb and watch the parent's driving style, behavior, emotions and attitude while on the road.

"They learn it's OK to be hostile, use bad language and yell at people," he said. "It's not OK face to face, but it's OK in your car."

As far as the increase in speeding, James said it can be attributed to two things: a group of people -- mostly males 15 to 24 years old -- who are "speed freaks," and a large portion of the population suffering from "rushing mania."


By Ken Sakamoto, Star-Bulletin
A sight that scares most Oahu drivers -- Honolulu
Police Officer William Axt, left, takes aim with his
laser-based speed detector.



Driving fast is kind of a macho thing for the speed freaks, James said. The speed freaks are influenced and bombarded with car commercials, video games and television shows -- "it's all speed."

Rushing mania is something James used to suffer driving on the Pali Highway to the university.

Some say they have less time and a faster pace of life than before. And that may be true, James said. But people have rushing mania even when they're not late or in a rush.

"I have it (rushing mania) from just feeling the stress when it's slow," he said. "When a driver is slow in front of me, that becomes stress for me.

"Instead of going around, or slowing down for a few minutes, we instantly get stressed and ask, 'How do I get out of the situation?'"

The No. 1 complaint James gets on his Web site, drdriving.org, is about slow drivers clogging the fast lane.

But slowing down is exactly what HPD's Wauke wants people to do. He said speed will eventually cause a driver to be late, either because of an accident or a ticket.

"You better slow down," he said. "I'm tired of going to fatals and criticals."



By George F. Lee, Star-Bulletin
Allan Magnaye, 17, was killed and eight other teen-agers
were hospitalized in this speeding accident on
Moanalua Freeway in March.



Running the risk

Police say highway racing is
not a big problem here,
but they're concerned

By Jaymes K. Song
Star-Bulletin

Tapa

The road action typically happens between 11 p.m. and 1 a.m., says Travis Higa, co-owner of Hyper Sports Inc., a high-performance racing parts shop in Kakaako.

Maybe the drivers are going home after an evening at a friend's house or seeing a movie. One of them is speeding. The other revs his engine with a throaty roar, or just makes eye contact and nods slightly.

The challenge has been issued.

The race is on.

Police say highway racing is not a major problem on Oahu, despite March's racing accident on Moanalua Freeway in which Allan Magnaye, 17, was killed and eight other teen-agers were hospitalized.

They still are concerned, though, along with motorists such as David Ellis, who knows the scenario well: two or more cars zipping by, weaving in and out of traffic, tailgating and in many cases creating serious hazards.

"It's an obvious major accident in the making," said Ellis. "It's not going to be a one-car ding. It's going to be a multiple-car death."

Ellis, a Mililani Mauka/Launani Valley Neighborhood Board member, has seen racing on the H-2 Freeway several times, and said two cars recently flew by him at an estimated 120 mph.

"They were a couple kids in souped Hondas," said Ellis. "I'm doing 60, and they passed by me like I'm sitting still.

Police said Ellis' area has been a hot spot for highway racing for several years. Other areas they point to are along Kalanianaole Highway and the H-1 Freeway from Waipahu to Makakilo and near the airport.

Police advise drivers to stay out of the way of people racing or driving recklessly, and to call 911 as soon as possible. Traffic Capt. Bryan Wauke advises drivers to avoid making eye contact if challenged to a race or confrontation.

"Let it go," he said. "You've got to be the adult because with some people, you can't expect them to be."

Police have no statistics on how many people engage in highway racing, because there is no classification that separates it from speeding.

But Higa's brother, Lanny, has been in the fast lane many times. Now 23, he recalls racing on Oahu's roads and freeways as a teen, driven by a sense of competitiveness.

"Everybody did it," he said. "We'd just mess around and race."

He still gets his share of challenges, particularly when he's behind the wheel of his flashy blue-and-silver 1992 Honda Civic, a vehicle he bought three years ago for $7,000 and souped up with about $15,000 worth of upgrades.

But he sticks to normal speeds on public roadways now and takes his car to workshops where he tells teen-agers about the dangers of highway racing and urges them to restrict competitions to Hawaii Raceway Park.

"I don't want what happened to these guys," he said, referring to the Moanalua Freeway incident. "I don't want them to kill themselves."

Sgt. Manuel Barros of the Honolulu Police Department's solo-bike detail can recall raising dust himself along country roads in Kahuku in his younger days, driving "big ol' cars with big engines."

But now he is a father and grandfather and becomes angry when cars scream past at "easily 100 miles per hour."

HPD is committed to an "all-out effort" to keep cracking down on all speeders, Barros said. But even he doesn't expect to see a checkered flag in highway racing.

"We can preach, stop and tag cars all we want," he said. "But we're never going to stop it."



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