Isle DUIs mostly young men
Most of those arrested in 2001 were first-time offenders, a study says
The typical Honolulu drunken driver is a man in his 20s to early 30s, employed in a lower- or middle-income job and quite impaired when he is arrested, according to a study based on 2001 statistics and released yesterday.
About 75 percent of the drunken drivers who were arrested were first-time offenders. But in a big surprise for researchers, statistics showed that the severity of injury in motor-vehicle collisions was greater when it involved impaired drivers with lower blood-alcohol levels.
Those who are less aware of their drunkenness might drive faster and more recklessly, increasing the likelihood of getting involved in a collision resulting in an injury, the study hypothesized.
And the study showed the courts did not go easy on offenders. Nearly 90 percent of the 278 arrested people with a blood-alcohol level of 0.08 percent or above were convicted.
"Let's use this report as an impetus to make a positive change. That would be the best outcome for us," said Paul Perrone, chief researcher with the attorney general's office and co-author of the study.
The study was conducted to quantify the problem of drunken driving in Hawaii, encourage further studies throughout the islands and lead to policy changes in the state.
It was based on a random sample of 503 DUI arrest reports in 2001, which is about a quarter of the 2,180 DUI arrests for that year, said Michael Hallstone, a professor at the University of Hawaii at West Oahu and co-author of the study. They decided to look at arrests in 2001 so all the cases in the study would have made their way through the court system.
"This is an issue that really hasn't been studied too much, locally or nationally," Perrone said.
Its findings already have created competing perspectives.
"This report has provided usable information while at the same time creating more questions that need to be answered and inferences that need to be clarified by conducting additional studies with larger sample sizes," said Carol McNamee, founder of MADD-Hawaii.
McNamee said she plans to ask lawmakers to implement tougher laws for first-time offenders who have a blood- alcohol level of 0.15 percent, nearly twice the legal limit.
R. Patrick McPherson, an attorney who specializes in DUI cases and helped with the study, said he does not support MADD's proposal.
"It doesn't make them all the more dangerous," he said. "I would much prefer to see them increase the punishments for repeat offenders. We need to want to concentrate on repeat offenders. They're very dangerous."
Lt. Jeffery Bruchal of the Honolulu Police Department's Traffic Division said the report will benefit everyone, from police to prosecutors to defendants themselves.
"It shows what can be accomplished when everybody comes together to address a concern, a community concern," he said.
Those who are interested in reviewing the study can go to the Crime Prevention and Justice Assistance Division Web site at cpja.ag.state.hi.us.
CRACKING DOWN ON DRUNKEN DRIVING
The following recommendations were part of the study:
» Simplify the blood-alcohol concentration test consent form that is given to suspects.
» Focus on deterring the largest group of potential impaired drivers. The report stated that in Hawaii and on the mainland, "the significant reductions in driving under the influence over the past 20 years are probably attributable to deterring the 'average citizen' rather than the hard-core alcohol/drug addict from driving while intoxicated."
» Approve the preliminary alcohol screening device test results at arrest locations as legal admissible evidence.
» Conduct additional DUI research.