Kealoha Seabury joined other relatives of drunken-driving victims yesterday at a vigil at Kakaako Waterfront Park sponsored by Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

Road carnage
angers MADD

Mothers Against Drunk Driving
holds its annual holiday vigil

Twenty years ago a drunken driver cost Traci Jacob an arm and full use of her legs. "It can happen to you, too," said the Honolulu resident yesterday, speaking at a Mothers Against Drunk Driving candlelight vigil for victims of drunken drivers.

"People are more concerned about partying than they are about taking care of themselves," she continued. "We can't take this thing for granted."

The gathering at Kakaako Waterfront Park yesterday afternoon came as MADD kicked off its annual red-ribbon campaign in time for the holiday season, a traditional peak period for drunken-driving accidents.

Officials hope raising awareness about drunken driving will trigger a drop in alcohol-related traffic fatalities after the islands saw a 53 percent increase in drunken-driving deaths in 2003, compared with 2002. Alcohol-related fatalities for this year were not available.

"We see daily the tragedy and heartache caused by drunk driving, yet we know it's 100 percent preventable," said Carol McNamee, founder of MADD-Hawaii.

In 2003, 72 people died in alcohol-related traffic accidents on Hawaii roads. The year before, there were 47 drunken-driving deaths.

The dramatic increase has been largely attributed to last year's jump in multiple-fatality crashes.

In 2003 there were nine alcohol-related traffic accidents on Hawaii roads that left at least two people dead. The year before, there were only two such crashes.

"We've seen too many crashes," McNamee said. "We're hoping it is an anomaly."

Danielle Mapu, left, Lauren Manu, Keith Masui, Junior Manu, Keith Masui Jr. and Ululani Manu left an offering of carnations yesterday at the Mothers Against Drunk Driving vigil at Kakaako Waterfront Park.

The Hawaii numbers conflict with national statistics, which showed a 3 percent drop in drunken-driving deaths last year from 2002, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Police have said they will be looking out for drunken drivers through the holidays.

They also plan to conduct sobriety checkpoints into the new year at various locations on Oahu and the neighbor islands.

At the vigil yesterday, attendees lit candles to remember those lost in alcohol-related crashes and placed pink and yellow roses at the base of a memorial at the park. MADD-Hawaii dedicated the memorial in March 2003 to honor victims and survivors of alcohol-related traffic accidents.

"It's coming together with others who have suffered the same loss," said MADD memorial committee chairwoman Theresa Paulette Winn, who lost her son in an alcohol-related accident. "It helps."

A cold rain fell as Jacob told the vigil's more than two dozen attendees about the 1984 accident that left her in a wheelchair and without a lower left arm.

Jacob was a 19-year-old dance instructor at the time, and her 17-year-old friend was driving home drunk from a party with five others in the car.

He ran into a telephone pole, leaving Jacob in a coma for more than two months.

She was the only one injured in the accident.

Her brain injuries limited her ability to walk, and it was only recently that the 39-year-old returned to college.

And it is only recently that her will to live has been restored.

"For a long time, I felt that bad," she said, speaking slowly and slurring some words.

"Today, I'm happy to be alive."

MADD-Hawaii has been in the islands for 20 years, and provides supports to victims of alcohol-related crashes. For more information, call MADD-Hawaii at 532-6232 or go to their Web site, www.maddhawaii.org.

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