COURTESY OF PUNISH'UM TV
Steve Oliberos, a professional "drifter," shows his skills and car at a Sept. 28 demonstration for Aloha Stadium officials. Oliberos and Punish'UM TV producers are trying to set up monthly drifting events.
Adrift: Racers lacking a track hit the streets
Residents complain that gatherings are disturbing peace in their neighborhoods
Since the closing of Hawaii Raceway Park in April, residents in Temple Valley say street racers who participate in the motorsport known as "drifting" are invading their quiet neighborhood.
Temple Valley isn't the only Oahu location hit up for drifting, according to online message boards. Others include an intersection at Kapolei, a ramp at Pearlridge and various multi-level parking garages. Some online denizens are hesitant to reveal their hot spots because the police or insurance agents may be reading the message boards as well. Others berate street drifters and wish for a proper racetrack.
Police, however, say they have not seen an increase in complaints about drifting or street racing.
Drifting is like a controlled skid. Skilled drivers can drift through turns at high speed or go sideways for long distances amid burning tire rubber.
"People are just looking for a place to go," said professional drifter Steve Oliberos, 2005 champion of Drift Session, a local drifting competition.
COURTESY OF PUNISH'UM TV
Steve Oliberos, 2005 champion of Drift Session, conducted a drifting demonstration Sept. 28 at Aloha Stadium.
Oliberos adds he does not condone street drifting and is working with the producers of a television program called Punish'UM Motorsports to set up monthly drifting events in the Aloha Stadium parking lot.
"If I can take one kid off the street and he can get his fix once a month in a controlled environment, and that saves one person's life, don't you think it's worth it?" Oliberos asked.
Two weeks ago, producers from Punish'UM held a demonstration for Aloha Stadium officials, who have yet to decide whether to hold the events.
Residents who live on Hui Iwa street near Ahuimanu Elementary School said drifting occurs as late as 3 a.m., and cars have caused minor damage to parked cars and mailboxes.
Area residents said the problem could be curbed with more traffic enforcement and calming devices at a four-way stop on Hui Iwa Street, an intersection they said is notorious for cars speeding and not obeying the stop signs.
George Okuda, the neighborhood board's chairman, said the board is asking the Honolulu Police Department for more presence in the area, and will ask the city's Department of Transportation Services to meet with residents to address traffic concerns.
Okuda said drifting in the area had been going on since the 2006 film release, "The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift," which further popularized the sport. Drifting also is popular in Japanese manga and anime.
Tracie Akai, who lives on Hui Iwa Street, said school children often walk in the area because of the bus stop.
Akai said she hears drifting from midnight to 3 a.m. on the weekends. She believes if traffic calming devices were in place at the intersection, it would deter drifting and speeding in the area. She said her family has been complaining to the city about the four-way stop for years.
"I can't see the drifting, but you can definitely hear it," Akai said. "It's going to take somebody to die before something happens to this intersection."
Les Vallarano, a 45-year-old road racer, said he thinks drifting in unauthorized areas has increased. The Waipio resident said it happens late at night on weekends at the Costco parking lot near him.
"They meet up on the Internet, and by the time the cops come, they're out," Vallarano said. "It's just really sad that they once had a place to do it, and it just got shut down. Thousands of people have gotten shut out of that racetrack."
Vallarano is part of Save Oahu's Race Track, a group hoping to lease the old raceway park. Vallarano said he hopes his group's efforts, as well as Punish'UM's, will be successful to provide a legal alternative and deter street racing and drifting.
If caught, drifters can be charged with reckless driving, which means jail time up to 30 days, said Sgt. Ryan Nishibun, acting lieutenant for the police traffic division.
Nishibun said drifting reports have not increased, although he is certain it occurs since the raceway park's closure.
"If residents observe the offense happening, I would have them call 911 immediately," Nishibun said. "Take down their license plate or give a good description of the vehicle. The drivers should know they are endangering others, not only themselves."