New speeding law nets 88 drivers
The tougher law lays down fines, license suspension and prison time
In the first two weeks of the year, 88 people were arrested and now face tough penalties under the new excessive-speeding law.
No trial has yet to be set for any of the cases, but city Prosecutor Peter Carlisle is confident they should be a breeze to prosecute.
"It's like any other speeding case, except that we have a particular threshold," Carlisle said. "That is a tremendous number, and in my opinion it shows there is a large number of people flagrantly violating our speeding laws. They are prime candidates to be treated by the harsher penalties."
PUNISHMENT FOR EXCESSIVE SPEEDING
State law punishes drivers going 30 mph more than the posted speed limit or moving at more than 80 mph:
Fines of $500 to $1,000, a 30-day license suspension, mandatory driver's education and either 36 hours of community service or two to five days in prison.
A $750 minimum fine, a 30-day license suspension and either 120 hours of community service or five to 14 days in prison.
THREE OR MORE VIOLATIONS:
A minimum $1,000 fine, license revocation up to a year and 10 to 30 days' prison time.
Both police and prosecutors are working to deter speeding in the hopes of whittling down traffic fatalities.
Under the law passed last year, drivers going 30 mph more than the posted speed limit or moving at more than 80 mph face stiffer penalties, including possible jail time.
First-time offenders face fines of $500 to $1,000, a 30-day license suspension, mandatory driver's education and either 36 hours of community service or two to five days in prison.
Second-time offenders face a $750 minimum fine, a 30-day license suspension and either 120 hours of community service or five to 14 days in prison.
Three or more violations lands a minimum $1,000 fine, license revocation for up to a year and 10 to 30 days' prison time.
The old law treated speeding as a traffic violation but did not criminalize it. For example, a repeat offender going 99 mph in a 35 mph zone would pay a $225 fine, retain his or her license and serve no jail time.
The law was passed in response to a number of speed-related fatalities last year and in 2003. Carlisle, who was a vocal proponent of the law, said the law is solid, even when compared with other states with similar penalties.
"There isn't any great difficulty in prosecuting these cases, because they're usually supported by some form of speed evaluation," Carlisle said.
None of the 88 motorists have pleaded guilty, which Carlisle said would be a better course of action for them.
"Some people are always going to claim inaccuracies, but yet the evidence is often overwhelming," Carlisle said. "It's a bad idea to take it to trial, because the judge will hear all the facts and circumstances, and will give no incentive to sentence on the lower end of the scale."
Jim Fulton, spokesman for the city prosecutor, said because it is a new law, the court system will tread cautiously through the proceedings.
"The judges are going to be very conservative in their approach in making sure all the defendants' rights are protected," Fulton said. "In one of the cases, the woman came in to get arraigned, and the judge wouldn't even allow her to be arraigned without counsel."
Sgt. Robert Lung of the Honolulu Police Department's Traffic Safety Division said officers use lasers in monitoring drivers and making their arrests.
"We're just trying to curb speeding, period," he said.
Statistics for speeding violations last year at this time were not available, but both police and the city prosecutor said 88 is high.
Lung said many of the arrests occur near Waianae and the long stretch in West Oahu on the H-1 freeway, as well as the H-3 freeway.
Drivers should slow down, no matter how high their confidence in their driving might be, Lung said. Traffic flow and conditions can change in an instant, and drivers need time to adjust.
"That's why we have a lot of fatalities happening," Lung said. "The biggest thing is people who think they can handle the vehicle, but why do they go off the road? It doesn't take much to lose control."