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Police chief urges driver safety during Super Bowl weekend

Super Bowl weekend is fast approaching, and Hawaii Police Department Chief Paul Ferreira said the department will have “enhanced enforcement” to detect impaired drivers and get them off the road.

Ferreira said the coronavirus pandemic still prevents officers from the DUI roadblocks that were common during weekends where parties are the norm, such as New Year’s Eve, Fourth of July, graduations and Super Bowl.

“It’s a risk to our officers and to the community, so we’re not doing DUI checkpoints,” Ferreira said Monday.

The department still can do what is known in law enforcement as “saturation patrols,” however. Those include a larger number of officers patrolling certain traffic corridors to detect drunken or drug-impaired drivers.

“We’re just hoping people will be responsible out there,” Ferreira said. “We had another fatality this past weekend … and speed and alcohol were not a factor, but it involved a motorcycle.

“And anytime you have a motorcycle (against) a car, the motorcycle is going to lose.”

There were three traffic fatalities in January. If that pattern holds throughout 2021, that would mean 36 fatalities, almost 2 1/2 times last year’s death toll on Big Island roadways.

In 2020, there were 15 fatal crashes across Hawaii Island, and impairment was a factor in 12 of them, police said. And even though the pandemic cut down on both fatalities and DUI arrests, there were still 1,001 arrested for impaired driving on the Big Island last year.

In years past, Super Bowl weekend has been a well-publicized “blue flu” event in Hawaii — especially among guards at the state’s correctional facilities — but Ferreira said his officers have “been pretty good” about showing up for their assignments.

“I don’t see that we’ve had any problems on Super Bowl weekend with officers working,” he said. “And if we need to … we can do enhanced patrols by holding over officers from the previous watch or bring guys in early. That’s part of our traffic grant. It’s not specifically for Super Bowl, just our regular DUI (enforcement) grant.”

The department urges those holding a Super Bowl gathering, whether it be an online watch party or a socially distanced small gathering, to have a game plan that prevents drunken driving.

That includes making sure gatherings involving alcohol also have a plan for a sober ride home, including designated drivers who aren’t drinking.

Taxis or commercial ride-shares also provide that service.

Police are among the Phase 1B priority group for COVID-19 vaccinations, and health care workers are in the process of holding clinics for law enforcement personnel.

“We had a group that was vaccinated in December, the week of Christmas, so that group has received their second shot. The next group is scheduled to receive their second shots this week,” Ferreira said.

The chief added he’s among those scheduled to receive his second shot this week.

“It’s all by personal choice whether they want to or not. We have had a good response of officers wanting to be vaccinated,” he said. “We remind them anytime (shot clinics) are open. We send out reminders to our commanders to let their personnel know that this is coming up again.

“But some people are fearful because of all the misinformation about side effects and what good is it going to do. And it’s their choice, what they want to do.”

Because it’s a choice, Ferreira said there’s no timeline or deadline for vaccinating all officers who want it.

“I’m not there to force anyone to do it. I think it’s in their interest,” he said.

Email John Burnett at jburnett@hawaiitribune-herald.com.
Source: Hawaii Tribune Herald

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