MADD's red ribbons make plea not to drink and drive
For relatives of people killed by drunken drivers, the pain never goes away, says one Oahu man.
"People say time heals all wounds. It doesn't," said Sean Oliberos, whose father, three brothers, aunt and uncle were killed in a crash on July 9, 1988, on the Big Island. "Time teaches you how to deal with it."
Oliberos, 35, and a group of volunteers helped the Hawaii chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving kick off its annual "red ribbon campaign" along Ala Moana Boulevard fronting Aloha Tower Marketplace yesterday to remind motorists to drive safely during the holiday season. Law enforcement and advocates say the holidays are typically one of the worst times for drunken driving.
The crash that killed Oliberos' relatives occurred on Queen Kaahumanu Highway as they were heading toward Mauna Kea Beach Hotel to go fishing. Gary T. Banker was the impaired driver traveling in a separate vehicle. He suffered head injuries in the crash.
According to MADD, the number of alcohol-related traffic fatalities statewide increased 10.9 percent in 2005 from 2004. Of 140 traffic-related fatalities that occurred last year, 71 involved alcohol compared with 64 the year before.
Also, almost one-third of the traffic-related fatalities that occurred during last year's holiday season were attributed to alcohol, said MADD Executive Director Connie Abram.
Along with the red-ribbon campaign, MADD launched its national "Campaign to Eliminate Drunk Driving" yesterday.
"We're no longer satisfied with reducing drunk driving. We want to eliminate it," Abram said.
As part of the campaign, MADD is distributing red ribbons to remind people to drive safely.
MADD officials also plan to explore advocating a system called alcohol ignition interlock for convicted drunken drivers in Hawaii.
Alcohol ignition interlock is a breath-test device connected to a vehicle's ignition system. "The vehicle will not start unless the driver's alcohol concentration is below a preset blood alcohol concentration," according to MADD.
So far, 45 states and the District of Columbia allow the device for some drunken drivers. Hawaii is among five states that do not have ignition interlock provisions, according to MADD. Other states that do not have the provision include Alabama, Maine, South Dakota and Vermont.
Advocates are looking into possibly introducing legislation on the device in 2008.
Police also participated in the campaign yesterday to remind people to have a designated driver or to take a taxicab.
People are getting the message, said Maj. Susan Dowsett, head of the Honolulu Police Department's Traffic Division. "We want to make sure that we continue to head in the right direction and that people don't drink and drive."
Since a task force was established almost two weeks ago to crack down on speeding and other traffic-related violations, police have arrested 34 people for drunken driving.
To date, 2,800 people have been arrested this year for driving under the influence of alcohol in Honolulu compared with 2,795 last year and 2,503 a year before, Dowsett said.