167 people were killed on Hawaii roads in '06
Last year was the deadliest here for motorists since 1990
The death toll on state and county roadways last year was the highest in 16 years, according to statistics compiled by the state Department of Transportation.
The 162 traffic fatalities do not include the five people who died following a head-on collision in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park Nov. 10, because the crash occurred on federal property.
There were 177 traffic deaths on Hawaii highways in 1990. In 2005 there were 140.
The Transportation Department is developing a strategic highway safety plan with other government and private organizations to try to reduce the number of roadway fatalities.
The planning got under way yesterday with a kickoff summit at Honolulu Country Club. The department plans to have suggestions compiled by summer.
The goal of the plan is to reduce the number of annual traffic deaths to 100 or fewer within five years.
"That's still high," said Scott Ishikawa, state transportation spokesman.
To achieve that goal the participants will focus on seven areas: aggressive driving, including speeding; impaired driving; seat belt and child safety seat usage; pedestrians and bicyclists; motorcycle and mo-ped riders; roadway design; and data collection.
The Transportation Department has invited experts from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and Federal Highway Administration to participate in the planning.
The NHTSA official has expertise in impaired driving and can suggest marketing and enforcement strategies for curbing drunken driving, Ishikawa said.
"We were doing pretty well up to last year. And last year, for some reason, we had a horrible year when it came to alcohol-related deaths," he said.
The state compiled the 2006 traffic fatality total last week. It has yet to release how many of those deaths were alcohol-related.
In 2005, 71 of the 140 traffic deaths were alcohol-related, the highest percentage among all states, according to data compiled by NHTSA.
The highways official is helping state transportation officials establish safety audit teams to evaluate new and existing roadways. They can suggest changes in speed limits, placement and number of signs, and even enforcement strategies.
"Each situation is unique. It's an art and it's a science," said Rudy Umbs, a senior highway safety engineer.
One strategy the state is already considering is the placement of speed indicator and collection equipment near schools. It has already installed two on Kalanianaole Highway in front of Waimanalo Elementary and Intermediate School.