Motorists along a stretch of West Oahu highway near where a 3-year-old boy was killed in a hit-and-run crash now have more than a dashboard speedometer to see how fast they’re driving.
The morning after the March 28 crash that killed Ashton Brown at the Makaha beach bus stop, police installed a speed monitor and a message board reminding drivers to slow down along Farrington Highway. The monitor flashes in large digits the speed of an approaching vehicle, while the message board is programmed with reminders to slow down.
They will remain in the area indefinitely and were put up in response to community criticism that police aren’t doing enough traffic enforcement in the remote area. The roadway near where Ashton was killed is known for speeding and dangerous driving.
Honolulu police are also continuing to set up drunken driving checkpoints and enforce speed limits.
“The community was asking for a little more assistance to go out with traffic safety,” Maj. Raymond Ancheta, commander of the Kapolei/Waianae district, said Tuesday. “The appeal is to the community to slow down and take care of themselves. They’re hurting people from their own community.”
An Oahu grand jury last week indicted Potasi Uta Jr., of Waianae, on charges of negligent homicide, negligent injury and fleeing the scene of a crash. Prosecutors said his blood-alcohol level was at least twice the legal driving limit more than three hours after the crash, which also left Ashton’s mother and three siblings injured.
Uta remained jailed on $100,000 bail. His relatives have said they plan to raise money to help Ashton’s family, who are reportedly homeless.
A memorial to Ashton continues to grow at the crash site, where people have been leaving stuffed toys, flowers, signs and balloons.
It’s unfortunate a child had to die for there to be awareness about dangerous driving, said John De Soto, president of the Makaha Hawaiian Civic Club and a former city councilman.
“We need to get together as a community,” he said.
De Soto said he understands police are limited in what they can do, but “the squeaky wheel gets the grease.”
The speed monitor is a welcome asset in an area that hasn’t had one before, he said, but there’s still no real incentive to slow down.
“It makes people aware. But there’s no live body there,” De Soto said. “Do you have a police officer standing next to it? No.”
There are times when a patrol officer will be positioned immediately after the speed monitor, Ancheta cautioned. But there are simply not enough officers to stop all illegal driving, he said.
For instance, the surfing beach’s roadside where Ashton was killed turns into a hangout at night, and residents often complain of the drinking and drug use that goes on there. Officers drive by, Ancheta said, but can’t stop unless there’s a reason. Otherwise, it would border on profiling, he said.
De Soto and Ancheta agree the community needs to be part of the solution.
“The people on the west side, they drive carefully, they drive slowly,” Ancheta said. “It’s a small minority of people who don’t have the aloha. Those are the people we’re trying to reach.”