State campaigns to protect motorcyclists and urge seat belt use
Calls for road safety echoed loudly yesterday with two state proclamations aimed at reducing accidents.
May is now officially Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month and Highway Safety Month.
The proclamations aim to improve Hawaii motor vehicle safety with three campaigns that will focus on motorcycle safety and awareness, seat belt enforcement and designated drivers.
"It's important to make sure that people are well aware of safe driving habits that include not drinking, buckling up and sharing the road" with motorcyclists and bicyclists, said Barry Fukunaga, director of the state Department of Transportation.
The three programs are part of a federally funded, nationwide campaign to improve highway safety, he said.
In 2006 there were 161 motor vehicle fatalities in Hawaii, a 15 percent increase from 2005.
Motorcycle fatalities nationwide increased for the eighth straight year in 2005.
"We are not immune, and we contributed to that climbing national average," Fukunaga said.
Motorcyclists should wear helmets, and motorists need to be aware of motorcyclists on the road, Lt. Gov. James Aiona said at a news conference in the Governor's Office, where he signed the proclamations.
In 2005, 22 out of 30 motorcycle fatality victims in Hawaii were not wearing a helmet, Aiona said.
During May the Department of Transportation will partner with the Police Department and motorcycle clubs to raise awareness and prevent motorcycle fatalities.
Assistant Police Chief Bryan Wauke announced that the annual "Click It or Ticket" seat belt enforcement campaign will run from May 21 to June 3. During the campaign, police will ticket drivers and passengers caught not using seat belts.
Wauke hopes the campaign will remind people to buckle up after a slight decrease in seat belt use from 95 percent in 2005 to 92 percent in 2006.
Hawaii seat belt law requires front-seat occupants and back-seat passengers under 18 to buckle up. The fine for a violation is $92.
Under a new law that went into effect Jan. 1, children up to age 8 need to ride in a child safety seat or a booster seat.
Seat belts increase the rate of survival by 45 to 50 percent, said Lee Nagano, a highway safety specialist for the Department of Transportation.
The designated driver, or D2, program will begin Memorial Day weekend and end Labor Day, with about 70 bars, nightclubs and restaurants participating. D2s will receive complimentary nonalcoholic drinks at participating establishments.