Flagrant speeders should be targeted


POSTED: Sunday, March 15, 2009

Responding to a high number of traffic fatalities, Honolulu police are increasing enforcement against speeders. They face an uphill struggle against public opinion that speeding is not only acceptable but, to many drivers, worth the adrenaline rush. Police should focus their efforts on late-night hours on freeway stretches that are favored by extreme speeders; nabbing drivers going only a few miles an hour over the limit is unproductive.

In the first two months of this year, 17 traffic fatalities occurred on Oahu, and more than half involved speeding. Most recently, a man with a blood-alcohol content nearly triple the legal limit had been driving more than 100 mph when his car, bound for Kaneohe, crashed into the entrance of Wilson Tunnel at 3:50 a.m. on Feb. 26, killing him and his two passengers.

Police have cited more than 200 drivers a day this month for speeding violations, 60 for excessive speeding — going more than 80 mph or 30 mph above the speed limit — and 80 for drunken driving. The question is whether police will be at the right spot at the right time to prevent a fatality. Attitudes will have to change before traffic fatalities decrease significantly.

The problem was apparent in a 2005 survey by SMS Research for the state Department of Transportation. While 92 percent of the respondents reported breaking the speed limit by 1 to 10 mph, 16 percent of the general population admitted to extreme speeding at least 21 mph above the limit.

Young drivers — those 18 to 25 years old — are more prone to push the pedal. The survey found that 28 percent of men in that age group and 17 percent of young women admitted to extreme speeding. When applied to the 2000 Census, that means more than 23,000 young Hawaii drivers are extreme speeders, risking whether they will arrive at their destinations.