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As traffic-related deaths rise, Honolulu police urge drivers to slow down this holiday season

Police are urging drivers to slow down and drive sober this holiday season as the number of traffic-related fatalities continue to surpass those from last year.

Statewide, there were 81 traffic-related fatalities in roughly the first 11 months of this year — nine more than the same time last year — according to preliminary statistics from the Hawaii Department of Transportation.

Of the 81 fatalities from Jan. 1 to last Wednesday, 29 involved motorcycles and scooters, 27 involved motor vehicle occupants, 20 involved pedestrians, four involved bicyclists, and one involved an ATV operator.

The statistics do not include those that occurred over the past few days, including a male pedestrian that died Sunday night after he was struck by a pickup truck in Wahiawa.

Nearly half were related to speeding, according to a news release from Mothers Against Drunk Driving Hawaii. While toxicology results are still pending for many traffic fatalities this year, MADD Hawaii said historical data shows nearly half of drivers also test positive for drugs or alcohol.

Fatalities involving motorcycles, mopeds and scooters are more than double the number — 29 compared to 12 — at the same time last year. Most occurred on Oahu, but all four major counties have recorded at least one so far this year.

In Honolulu, there were fewer fatalities involving motor vehicle occupants so far this year, at seven, compared to 24 during the same time period last year.

The opposite is true for Hawaii County, where there have been 13 fatalities involving motor vehicle occupants this year compared to nine at the same time last year. On Maui, there have been six fatalities involving motor vehicle occupants, up from just one at the same time last year.

On Oahu, MADD Hawaii has kicked off its annual “Tie One On for Safety” campaign to remind the community of the dangers of impaired driving this holiday season and of December as National Impaired Driving Prevention Month.

On Maui, the police department’s traffic division last Wednesday teamed up with MADD and the family and friends of Hannah Brown to kick off the county’s impaired driving awareness holiday campaign in Wailuku. MPD is dedicating a DUI checkpoint to Brown for the third year.

On June 23, 2019, Brown, age 19, was killed in a head-on collision with another vehicle going the wrong way operated by a drunk driver.

“We hope that by memorializing Hannah at this event every year, especially as we enter the most dangerous time of the year for driving, people will stop and think before they get behind the wheel,” said MPD’s Lt. William Hankins in a news release. “Please remember there are families, like the Browns and too many others on Maui, that have had to suffer the senseless and preventable loss of a loved one at the hands of an intoxicated driver.”

Hawaii County also launched its “No Excuse” campaign with a holiday sign-waving event on Kanoelehua Avenue last week to remind drivers to drive sober or get pulled over.

“The reality is that HPD officers have been stopping, issuing citations and arresting drivers making risky decisions behind the wheel since the public emergency [related to COVID-19] began,” said police in a news release.

All four county police departments will be conducting sobriety checkpoints and saturation patrols during the holiday season.

MADD’s red ribbons are available statewide at Napa Auto Parts stores, Foodland, Aloha Island Marts, and the offices of the four county mayors and prosecuting attorneys.

Their purpose is to remind people to slow down and obey speed limits, buckle up, and plan a safe way home before consuming intoxicants. Even one alcoholic beverage can slow reaction times and impair judgment. Friends can help by not letting friends drive while impaired.

“Law enforcement agencies across the state continue to conduct traffic enforcement to prevent senseless tragedies and save lives,” said acting Major James Slayter of HPD’s Traffic Division in a news release. “Our commitment hasn’t wavered, but we need everyone else to do their part, too. Slow down, drive sober, wear your seat belt and watch out for all roadway users so that everyone can get home safely.”

TRAFFIC RELATED FATALITIES

Traffic-related deaths in Hawaii from Jan. 1 to Nov. 24:

>> State (81 total): 27 motor vehicles, 20 pedestrians, 29 motorcycles and scooters, 4 bicyclists, 1 ATV operator.

>> City and County of Honolulu (39 total): 7 motor vehicles, 14 pedestrians, 15 motorcycles and scooters, 3 bicyclists.

>> Hawaii County (25 total): 13 motor vehicles, 2 pedestrians, 9 motorcycles and scooters, 1 ATV operator.

>> Maui County (15 total): 6 motor vehicles, 4 pedestrians, 4 motorcycles and scooters, 1 bicyclist.

>> Kauai County: (2 total), 1 motor vehicle, 1 motorcycle.

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