Police and parents must help reduce car wrecks
Four teenagers were killed in two car accidents at the same spot along the North Shore's Kamehameha Highway.
GRADUATED driving requirements enacted by the Legislature last year were supposed to reduce traffic accidents such as the one that took the lives of two teenagers along the North Shore early Saturday, but it cannot be expected to eliminate them. Law enforcement, parents and schools must join in making the restrictions work, despite teenage peer pressure.
Pepe Naupoto, 15, was the driver of a stolen car that crossed a lane of Kamehameha Highway and struck two utility poles and a hydrant at 4:20 a.m. Saturday, killing himself and passenger Alithia Ah Nee, 16, and injuring three other teenage passengers. Compounding the tragedy, Summer-Lynn Mau, 19, and Orem "Benson" Kauvaka, 16, were mourning the deaths at the spot of that accident Saturday night when they were killed by a truck that plowed into the group.
The Legislature enacted a law last year that requires drivers age 15 1/2 to 16 be accompanied by a driver, age 21 or older, in the front passenger seat. Between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m., that chauffeur must be a parent or guardian. A driver under 18 with a provisional license cannot have more than one passenger under 18 who is not a household member. Naupoto was driving in violation of all three restrictions.
Most other states have similar laws and face similar problems in enforcement. In April, Thomas Tierney, 17, was speeding on a provisional driver's license with three passengers when the car slid into an oncoming car, killing 15-year-old passenger Joseph Delbuono Jr., 15, in New Jersey. At 12:45 a.m. on July 26, a 16-year-old motorist violated Illinois' 11 p.m. driving curfew when he crashed in suburban Chicago, killing a passenger.
Young people told the Star-Bulletin's Craig Gima that teenagers routinely ignore Hawaii's law. "If they're out driving with their friends, they won't be driving with adults," said Kiki Chaiwak, 16, laughing when asked if he follows the law when he drives.
Likewise, in New Jersey, Anthony Shecton, 16, a classmate of Delbuono, told the Home News Tribune of New Brunswick that peer pressure from friends in a car is almost impossible to resist. "It is almost like it makes it more fun because you know you are not supposed to do it," he said.
That is why, despite such laws, teens make up 6 percent of all licensed drivers nationally but are involved in 15 percent of fatal accidents. In Kansas, which lacks graduated licensing, teens represent 6.7 percent of licensed drivers but account for 20.1 percent of deadly crashes.
Hawaii's law, which also requires teens to obtain driver education before obtaining a provisional license, is adequate. More law enforcement and comprehensive driver education are needed, but the parental role is even more important. That cannot be legislated.