CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Mothers Against Drunk Driving kicked off its Tie One On For Safety Campaign yesterday at the Keeaumoku Wal-Mart. Candace Alcantara, a volunteer from Chaminade, handed out red ribbons to shoppers.
Group urges sober motoring
Random checkpoints will help ensure isle motorists don't drink before they drive
With the holiday season under way, Russell Tai Hook tries to find as many opportunities as he can to talk about his 17-year-old cousin and how he died while driving drunk.
The Mothers Against Drunk Driving employee said Jason Keo was like any other boy who wanted to celebrate his high school graduation.
"He went to a graduation party and made two critical wrong choices," Hook, 35, said. "He chose to drink and he chose to get behind the wheel."
Hook was in front of the Keeaumoku Wal-Mart yesterday for MADD's kickoff for the Tie One On For Safety campaign. He passed out the signature ribbons meant to raise awareness about drunken driving.
Last year, of the 161 people who died on Hawaii roadways, 84 died in alcohol-related crashes. It is a 16.7 percent increase from 2005, which had 72 alcohol-related fatalities. According to MADD, Hawaii is ranked low -- 48th out of 50 states -- in the nation in terms of drunken-driving deaths.
Police will be setting up random sobriety checkpoints around the island. Just last weekend, 45 people were arrested for allegedly drinking and driving.
For next year's legislative session, MADD hopes to help introduce legislation to require ignition interlocks for all convicted drunken drivers.
The device works similar to a breathalyzer, and if the driver registers above the legal limit of 0.08 in blood-alcohol content, the car won't start. Alabama, Hawaii, Maine, South Dakota and Vermont have no interlock laws.
Leah Marx, executive director for Hawaii's MADD chapter, said MADD is working with the state Department of Transportation, police and prosecutors in crafting the law.
"We would need to have someone monitoring the devices," Marx said. "They don't have probation for initial DUI cases, so who's going to monitor it? We need to set that in place."
Marx said it's important to get the message out, especially in light of recent high-profile drunken-driving arrests. State Rep. Jon Riki Karamatsu, local broadcasting star James "Kimo" Kahoano, and "Lost" actor Daniel Dae Kim all were arrested last month on suspicion of drinking and driving.
"It just shows that people who are well-versed in the law, like a representative or other people that have status in the community, can still get behind the wheel and have that lapse in judgment," she said. "That's why we're out here promoting people to have designated drivers."