Thursday, August 30, 2001

Officer Charles Hirata holds up a passive alcohol sensor that Maui
police will be using. The hole on the side of the flashlight can
analyze a driver's breath for alcohol.

Police prep for
Labor Day with
statewide DUI

Hawaii authorities and
MADD want parents
to be involved

By Lisa Asato

Alcohol-related traffic fatalities are down so far this year, and police and Mothers Against Drunk Driving want to keep it that way.

In Hawaii this year, 23 of 88 traffic fatalities have been linked to drunken driving, compared with 35 of 89 fatalities at this time last year, MADD-Hawaii said.

On Oahu, the Honolulu Police Department said, alcohol accounted for 14 of the island's 49 fatal traffic accidents this year. That is down from 19 of the 42 fatal accidents last year.

Because nationally the Labor Day weekend usually has a high-fatality rate, police on all islands will be setting up sobriety checkpoints tomorrow.

"We're not saying when, we're not saying where," Honolulu police Maj. Robert Prasser said.

The checkpoints will continue until Sept. 15, if not longer, he said at a joint press conference with the Hawaii chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

"If you drink and drive, the message we want to send out is, there's a good chance you'll get caught," he said. "So don't do it."

Yvonne Nelson, MADD Hawaii president, above, told how her
mom was killed by a drunken driver. MADD and HPD
announced a holiday campaign yesterday.

According to a MADD-Hawaii news release, the National Safety Council predicts that one in two traffic fatalities during the holiday weekend will be alcohol-related.

Yvonne Nelson, MADD-Hawaii chairwoman, said her mother became a Labor Day statistic 14 years ago when she was killed on a New Mexico highway. A man was driving back to a party going more than 90 mph when he "hit my mother's car from the rear, ejecting her from the car," she said.

"My mom was not hard, she was not cold; she was a living, breathing person," Nelson said noting that fatality statistics are hard and cold.

Saying police and MADD cannot do the job alone, Nelson asked for parents to help.

"Parents, please be an example for your children. Don't drink and drive," she said.

Micah Vasconcellos of MADD-Hawaii Youth in Action, said Labor Day weekend is "a high-risk time for young people in the state."

He asked youths to celebrate smart.

"Zero tolerance means ... you could lose your license on the spot for six months," he said.

Under the zero-tolerance law, drivers under the legal drinking age are held to a lower standard of blood-alcohol level -- 0.02 instead of the state's legal driving limit of 0.08.

Along with roadside tests, Lt. Charles Hirata, commander of the Maui Police Department traffic section, said officers will be using passive alcohol sensors. The sensors are built into a rechargeable flashlight that analyzes breath for alcohol.

HPD will not be using the sensors. Prasser said HPD has conducted 82 sobriety checkpoints this year and arrested 16 people for driving under the influence at those sites. An additional person was arrested under Hawaii's zero-tolerance law.

He said there were no alcohol-related fatalities last Labor Day weekend.

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