Majority of Big Isle
road deaths preventable

Drugs and alcohol cause 64%
of the island's traffic deaths

HILO » Sixty-four percent of this year's traffic fatalities on the Big Island were caused by drunk or drugged drivers, police said yesterday.

"It's a sad comment that nearly two-thirds of the traffic fatalities could have been avoided by simply refusing to get behind the wheel when you are drunk or high," said Police Chief Lawrence Mahuna.

As of Nov. 1, 36 people were killed in 28 crashes on Big Island roads, an increase of 19 percent over the same period last year when 30 victims died in 27 accidents. Of this year's 28 crashes, 18 involved alcohol and/or drugs, Big Island police said.

"Besides the financial costs, driving under the influence causes untold trauma to the families of motorists killed by drunk drivers," Mahuna said.

Speed was a factor in 54 percent of this year's crashes, police said, and nearly half the total fatal accidents were single-vehicle crashes where the driver ran off the road, flipped over or struck a stationary object.

Besides the 36 traffic fatalities, an additional six people were killed in four accidents on private roads and are not counted as traffic deaths. Speed was a factor in three of these crashes, drugs were a factor in two, and none of these victims were wearing seat belts.

To combat the problem of drunk/drugged drivers, police will beef up the number of sobriety checkpoints it operates islandwide, according to Sgt. Christopher Gali of the Hawaii County Police Department's Traffic Enforcement Division.

Currently the traffic division sets up seven checkpoints somewhere on the island each month.

In addition, Gali said, each of eight police districts also operates another "one or two checkpoints each month, depending on whether they can get a funding grant."

The state Department of Transportation's new "52/12 Campaign" will fund one checkpoint in each county each week in a randomly chosen district. The program is scheduled to run through Sept. 30.



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