Clear wrecks quickly
to avoid more hazards


Police officials say their investigations require closing roadways after accidents.

MOTORISTS snagged in the mess of traffic following a three-car accident on the H-1 this week certainly understand that police need to conduct thorough investigations, particularly when there are fatalities, as in this case.

Police officers are mindful of the inconvenience as well as the more serious problems shutting down Honolulu's primary freeway might cause, especially when closings continue for lengthy periods.

But just as police have investigation procedures to abide by, there also should be measures taken to mitigate tie-ups, and these should be standard practice whenever bad accidents occur.

In addition, state, city and police officials should figure out ways to inform the driving public as soon as possible that roads have been closed. Such actions will help avoid complaints and reduce the risk that other difficulties or emergencies may occur.

Police say the woman who died in the accident early Monday afternoon was speeding before her car struck a van that in turn collided with a Jeep on the H-1 near in the Waimalu-Pearl City area. The number of vehicles and the nature of the accident forced police to close four of the freeway's five lanes for nearly three hours. However, ripples of the shutdown stacked up traffic as far east as Waikiki and along dozens of roads leading to and from the freeway, and jams did not ease until after 7 p.m.

Aside from the inconvenience, closing the H-1 could have complicated travel for fire trucks and ambulances. If another emergency had occurred in the vicinity, gridlock could have delayed or prevented help from arriving.

Road closings after accidents aren't unusual on Oahu. The H-1 was blocked off for six hours Feb. 13 when cars slammed into a service truck that was checking the freeway for debris before the ZipLane was opened for morning traffic. Four men were killed in that accident. In the same month, Kamehameha Highway in Hauula was closed for more than four hours as the result of a fatal crash. Shutdowns of four to five hours also took place on the H-3 in May and again on the H-1 in July.

Police say the procedure is necessary for investigators to do their jobs and do so as quickly as possible, given the fact that they must deal with a number of factors, including possible criminal and civil actions. But the consequences of closing roadways are predictable and police operations should include preventing them.

Police officials say HPD follows practices similar to mainland departments, but note that drivers here suffer more because there are few alternative routes with road systems that run mostly along island perimeters. This makes faster road clearances all the more important.

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