More enforcement of traffic laws key to fewer fatalities
Enforcement and better weather have contributed to a drop in fatal traffic accidents on Oahu.
The Honolulu Police Department can't control the weather, but it can step up enforcement of traffic laws. The result has been a sharp decrease in the number of people killed on Oahu's streets and highways so far this year. Though it is hard to argue that the prescription for the cure seems entirely logical, no one can quarrel with the good outcome.
The department says rainy weather contributes to fatal accidents, which, in part, was why stormy 2006 saw a record 90 fatalities, the most in nearly 11 years. In contrast, 2007 has been relatively dry, which has helped to check highway deaths, according to Maj. Susan Dowsett, who heads the traffic division.
However, it is just as likely -- if not more -- that heightened enforcement has made the difference.
There have been 24 fewer people killed in traffic-related mishaps on Oahu thus far this year, compared with the same period in 2006. The significant drop from 74 deaths stands in contrast to Maui, where the numbers are identical, and on Hawaii island, where deaths have increased slightly.
During the same interval, Honolulu officers have given out 12,929 more speeding citations, a total of 36,273, and 327 more citations for impaired driving. In addition, HPD has conducted traffic checks for drivers under the influence of alcohol and other drugs every week rather than only on holidays as in previous years.
HPD has accomplished this without having to incur substantially higher costs. Grant funds were used to pay for checkpoint duty and related court appearances. The increase in speeding tickets is the result of officers being more attentive to speeders.
Meanwhile, publicity about pedestrian safety and strict enforcement of crosswalk laws -- prompted by 10 deaths in as many weeks at the first of the year -- also cut fatalities. Even though HPD's program that used undercover officers to nab jaywalkers was derided, it has kept would-be scofflaws from endangering themselves and others. Drivers, too, have become more observant of walkers.
Altogether, HPD's boosted enforcement looks like a success, and officials and officers deserve a tip of the hat.