Group recommends DUI devices in cars
The breath-testing device aims to stop drunken drivers from getting on the road
Collaborators in a state transportation safety plan recommended yesterday the use of car ignition interlock devices to prevent convicted drunken drivers from hitting the road.
Hawaii is one of four states that does not have ignition interlock provisions, said Mitch Roth, co-chairman of the governor's Highway Safety Council.
Officials plan to introduce a bill at the Legislature next year to allow ignition interlocks -- breath-testing devices that prevent a vehicle from starting unless the driver's alcohol level is below a preset blood concentration.
A Senate measure this year that would allow interlock devices was deferred to the 2008 session, while the House passed a resolution calling for further Transportation Department study.
Other strategies to deter drunken driving include urging police departments to adopt a mandatory blood-draw policy for serious vehicle crashes and continue high-visibility sobriety checkpoints.
These are part of a five-year strategic plan to help reduce the high number of traffic-related deaths in the state.
The 2007-2012 Hawaii Strategic Highway Safety Plan resulted from the work of more than 150 people in law enforcement, health and community organizations such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving-Hawaii Chapter and the AARP-Hawaii.
They first met in January, breaking up into discussion groups. Each group came up with strategies on one of the following areas: aggressive driving, impaired driving, occupant protection, pedestrians and bicyclists, motorcycles and mo-peds, facility design and data, and data management systems.
For the past several months, members whittled down hundreds of ideas to key strategies in each area to address highway safety.
The safety plan is a blueprint for officials to take action in the interest of highway safety, said state Transportation Director Barry Fukunaga.
Representatives from the Honolulu Police Department, state Department of Health, Department of Transportation and others are expected to meet with Gov. Linda Lingle next Thursday to discuss the plan.
"This plan is just the first step," said Brennon Morioka, state transportation deputy director, yesterday at a presentation at the Honolulu Country Club. "There is still a lot of work ahead of us."
Drunken driving remains one of the main factors in traffic- related deaths. Officials said almost half of the 673 traffic- related deaths that occurred between 2001 and 2005 involved a driver who was under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
In 2006, 163 traffic-related deaths occurred statewide, the highest in 15 years. Of that figure, 79 were attributed to alcohol, according to the report.
Officials also focused on ways to reduce the high rate of pedestrian deaths in the state.
Hawaii had the fifth-highest pedestrian fatality rate from crashes in the United States from 2001 and 2005 and the highest rate among senior-age pedestrians, according to the report.
Discussions will continue among officials on the safety plan, Fukunaga said.