Hawaii closes the year with a total of 85 traffic related fatalities, according to preliminary statistics from the Hawaii Department of Transportation.
While the total for the year, with the exception of New Year’s Eve, is actually the lowest total in more than a decade and 23 less than the same period last year, police are concerned about increased speeding and reckless driving incidents this year.
Transportation officials are concerned, as well, because traffic volumes on Hawaii roads have also dropped by about a third this year due to COVID-19 restrictions.
Of the 85 traffic-related fatalities the state counted from Jan. 1 to Wednesday, a total of 41 involved motor vehicle occupants, 21 involved pedestrians, 19 involved motorcycles, mopeds and scooters, and four involved bicyclists.
Oahu had the greatest share of fatalities, with 54, followed by Hawaii County, with 15, Maui County, with nine, and Kauai County, with seven.
Also, Oahu’s fatalities surpassed those from the same time last year by three. The number of bicycle fatalities, at four, were the same last year, but this year, they were all on Oahu.
The Honolulu Police Department says speeding incidents and tickets were on the rise this year.
This year, approximately 40,000 speeding tickets were issued, up from about 24,000 in 2019, according to HPD Maj. Calvin Tong.
In addition, the number of excessive speeding tickets — more than 30 miles over the speed limit — doubled to about 10,000 compared to about 5,000 last year. Reckless driving incidents more than doubled, from about 1,600 this year compared to 700 last year.
Also, racing incidents rose to about 600 compared to about 400 last year.
Less congestion may have been the reason why more people drove over the speed limit, said Tong. The HPD Traffic Division’s night enforcement unit has also found some people flying down the freeway late at night at speeds in excess of 80 mph.
“That gives people the feeling they can go faster without getting into an accident, which is not true,” he said, adding that HPD was stepping up enforcement. “I have my officers out there trying to discourage bad behavior. We know it’s out there so we’re doing as much as we can to get them to slow down.”
Some unfortunate incidents include the death of a 27-year-old man who got run over while lying in the roadway in Waikiki on Christmas Eve, which police said was the 54th traffic related fatality this year. The man, who may have been intoxicated, was taken to the hospital in critical condition, where he later died.
Another recent tragedy includes a serious motor vehicle collision that occurred when a 26-year-old man attempted to make an illegal U-turn at Kapaa Quarry Road late at night. He was broadsided by another car that had the green light, and collided into the guardrail.
His male passenger, also 26, was pronounced dead at the scene.
There were a number of solo collisions, including one by a motorcyclist on the Kunia on-ramp to H-1 freeway this month, along with at least two pedestrians hit by drivers under the influence this year.
Tong said approximately about 22 of the traffic-related fatalities are related to speed compared to 24 last year, about 15 possibly related to alcohol compared to 11 last year, and about 10 related to drugs compared to seven last year.
Honolulu police are continuing unannounced impaired driver checkpoints through February.
Maui police also said there would be stepped-up patrols tonight and through the holiday weekend as part of its “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over Campaign.” Maui police said four of its traffic-related fatalities this year involved someone impaired by alcohol or drugs.
To be counted, a fatal crash must involve a motor vehicle traveling on a traffic way customarily open to the public and result in the death of at least one person within 30 days, according to state officials.
TRAFFIC-RELATED DEATHS IN HAWAII
JAN. 1 TO DEC. 30, 2020
>> City and County of Honolulu: 27 motor vehicle occupants, 16 pedestrians, 7 motorcycles and mopeds, 4 bicyclists (54 total)
>> Hawaii County: 9 motor vehicle occupants, 3 pedestrians, 3 motorcycles (15 total)
>> Maui County: 1 motor vehicle occupant, 2 pedestrians, 6 motorcycles and scooters (9 total)
>> Kauai County: 4 motor vehicle occupants, 3 motorcycles and mopeds (7 total)