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Police ramping up holiday traffic enforcement

November was a particularly deadly month on Big Island roads, with six traffic fatalities, and with December’s first traffic death occurring Wednesday, the Hawaii Police Department is reminding drivers to drive sober and safely this holiday season.

Police arrested 27 individuals for DUI the week of Dec. 2-8, the largest weekly number since 28 were arrested for driving impaired the week of Sept. 9-15.

“Nationally, we know there’s a higher volume of traffic, so there’s actually more vehicular crashes — and locally, it affects us, as well. Because we know that, officers are going to be positioned where there are higher volumes of traffic and trying to mitigate the DUIs by making traffic stops. And we will have DUI roadblocks that are out, in place,” said Torey Keltner, the department’s Traffic Services program manager, on Thursday. “When you have a heavier density of vehicles, people need to drive patiently and obey the speed limit, not get impatient and try to do things that normally they can’t do. And I think the higher volume of traffic and people being impatient does impact that. And that’s why you see that uptick in numbers, not just in fatalities, but in other crashes. And not just on the Big Island, but statewide and across the country.”

As of Thursday, there were 24 official traffic fatalities on Hawaii Island, five fewer than at the same time last year.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 37,133 people were killed in motor vehicle traffic crashes in 2017, and almost a third, 10,874 of those deaths occurred in crashes during which a driver had a blood-alcohol concentration over the legal limit of 0.08. In fact, 885 people nationwide lost their lives in traffic crashes involving a drunk driver during the month of December 2017 alone.

The holidays prove to be extra dangerous to drivers, as more people — drivers and pedestrians alike — are out on the roads.

“The biggest thing we want to stress with people is that they slow down,” Keltner said. “Because the higher the speed of vehicles traveling, the greater the damage caused in a collision. And there’s a reason the Department of Transportation puts speed limit signs on the roads, because the roads are engineered for those speeds. Vehicles can make corners safely at the speeds that are posted.”

Keltner said that with the holiday festivities and parties where adult beverages are being served, it’s important for everyone to “have a plan to get home safely.” He said police are ramping up holiday traffic enforcement and those caught driving under the influence will be arrested. He also advised people who witness drunken driving to call police immediately because it’s safer and better to be arrested for drunken driving than to be involved in a fatal crash.

“People are using things that cause them to get intoxicated — alcohol and other substances. They’ve got to be really careful and make sure they have a safe way to get home,” Keltner said. “We have a lot of different avenues now to help. There’s families, friends, there’s taxis, there’s Uber, there’s Lyft, there’s all those things that are out there. If they’ve consumed any substance that’s impaired them in any way, they shouldn’t be driving at all. And please wear a seat belt and make sure you’re not using a cellphone while driving.

“Even Santa wears a seat belt. That’s a big thing.”

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

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