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Traffic fatalities down in 2019

Despite a deadly November in which seven people died on Big Island roads, official traffic fatalities in Hawaii County were significantly down in 2019 from the previous year.

According to the Hawaii Police Department, there were 25 official traffic fatalities in 2019, and no collisions occurred that caused more than one death.

There also was one traffic death not officially counted because it occurred in federal jurisdiction within the boundaries of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, and two others in which autopsies showed the death was caused by medical reasons other than the collision, taking them off the official list.

Those 25 official fatalities represent a decrease of almost 22% over 2018’s total of 32 traffic deaths — all of them official. There also were two fatal collisions in which two people were killed in 2018, upping the deadly toll on Hawaii County’s thoroughfares.

The year, in fact, was the least deadly on Big Island roads since 2015, which had 19 official traffic deaths. That year, and 2014, when only 11 road deaths occurred, were the only years in the last decade when there were fewer than 20 fatalities.

In 2019, there were 16 fatal single-vehicle crashes, 10 fatal two-vehicle crashes and two fatal three-vehicle crashes. Those killed include 11 drivers, eight pedestrians, six motorcyclists, two passengers and a bicyclist.

“Pedestrians, in particular, need to make sure they’re wearing light-colored clothes if they’re in a dark area — both pedestrians and bicyclists — and have reflective materials on or lights would help with some of the stuff that’s going on there. And although it’s not all of them, anytime a person is under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or is intoxicated in some way, there’s obviously an impact in their ability to react to things,” said Torey Keltner, Hawaii Police Department’s traffic services manager.

Kona, by far, had the highest number of fatalities, with 10 — twice as many as Puna, with five. Hilo and South Kohala each had four fatalities, Hamakua tallied two, and there were one apiece in Ka‘u, North Hilo and Hawaii Volcanoes National Park — and zero in North Kohala.

And while November is a reminder that no one should treat driving as a routine act, there also were long stretches in 2019 when no fatalities occurred. There were no fatalities in the months of February and September, and one each in July and August.

The deadliest year on Big Island roads in the last decade was 2012, with 38 official fatalities — six more than each of the consecutive years of 2016, 2017 and 2018, which had 32 each.

There were 265 official traffic fatalities on Hawaii Island roads in the 2010s, an average of 26.5 per year.

Unofficially, a look at the media releases surrounding each official death shows that police suspected speed was a factor in 15 fatal crashes in 2019, inattention to driving a factor in five, alcohol in four and drugs in two.

Keltner mentioned Mayor Harry Kim’s commitment to “Vision Zero,” a worldwide traffic safety program that seeks to eliminate fatal traffic collisions by reorganizing and re-imagining traffic management systems. First approved in Sweden in 1997, Vision Zero policies have since been adopted around the world, including New York City, where traffic fatalities dropped to their lowest recorded point in 2018.

Gov. David Ige signed a bill into law in late June codifying a policy to eliminate traffic fatalities statewide through better traffic engineering and emergency response strategies. The new law requires the state Department of Transportation and all county transportation departments to adopt Vision Zero traffic policies.

Kim issued a proclamation in February expressing his commitment to reducing all traffic deaths and serious injuries to zero in February.

“All crashes are preventable if somebody takes certain steps. It’s really important that we understand that,” Keltner said. “If we all do our own little part, we can keep each other safe and keep ourselves safe.”

Email John Burnett at jburnett@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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List of 2019 Hawaii Island traffic fatalities. Dates are date of death. Actual collision may have been earlier. (Sources: Hawaii Police Department and National Park Service)

1. Colin Miller, 64, of Hilo, Jan. 6, Makaala Street, Hilo.

2. Jason Andrew Becerril, 30, of Keaau, Jan. 16, Highway 11 near 99-mile marker, Captain Cook.

3. Jerry Decker, 75, of Mountain View, March 12, Highway 11 at Mountain View post office.

4. Elisa Eubank, 67, of Waikoloa, March 31, Old Saddle Road near 45-mile marker, Waimea.

5. Anthony Harper, 35, of Pahoa, April 3, Highway 11 just north of Makalika Street, Hilo.

6. Michael J. Clair, 60, of Kailua-Kona April 20, Palani Road near Highway 180 intersection, Kailua-Kona.

7. Michael A. McCormick, 70, of Ocean View, May 5, Highway 19 near Kona airport, Kailua-Kona.*

8. David Alan Mahon, 49, of Kailua-Kona, May 22, Highway 190 near 14-mile marker, North Kona.

9. Jackie Yasuda, 66, of Pahoa, May 29, Highway 130 near 16-mile marker, Opihikao.

10. Masayoki George, 35, of Kailua-Kona, May 30, Hualalai Road, Kailua-Kona.

11. Jessie Lee Stacy, 38, of Waikoloa, June 2, Waikoloa Road at Uluwehi Street, Waikoloa.

12. Jennie Diaz, 66, of Pahoa, June 15, Government Beach Road, 2.8 miles south of Kahakai Boulevard, Pahoa.*

13. Alaysha Fujiyama, 21, of Keaau, June 17, Ainako Avenue, Hilo.

14. Mackleen Victus, 23, of Puna, June 27, Highway 19 near 48-mile marker, Hamakua.

15. Clinton Leimamo Pawai, 53, of Waimea, June 29, Parker Ranch Center parking lot, Waimea.

16. Jonathan Milo Brown, 57, of Grinnell, Iowa, July 25, Highway 11 near 35-mile marker, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.*

17. Jordan Seth Powell, 26, of Kailua-Kona, Alii Drive, Aug. 29, 0.3 miles south of Royal Poinciana Drive, Kailua-Kona.

18. Edgar William Schwoyer, 86, of Kailua-Kona, Oct. 6, Pueo Road, Holualoa.

19. Christina Linn Lewis, 50, of Waikoloa, Oct. 24, Kauhiwai Street, Waikoloa.

20. Wayne W. Geil, 40, of Hilo, Nov. 6, Kaumana Drive near Wiliwili Street, Hilo.

21. Cassandra Lynn Ellis, 35, of Kailua-Kona, Nov. 10, Highway 19 near 90-mile marker, Kailua-Kona.

22. Nicholas Ashton Catlett, 34, of Kailua-Kona, Nov. 14, Manawalea Street, Kailua-Kona.

23. Vincent L. Pereira Jr., 49, of Mountain View, Nov. 16, Highway 19 near 26-mile marker, Laupahoehoe.

24. Shelby Hookahi, 28, of Kailua-Kona, Nov. 19, Highway 11 near 118-mile marker, Kona.

25. Paul Ray Roby, 35, of Naalehu, Nov. 24, Kamaoa Road 0.7 miles east of South Point Road, Naalehu.

26. Lloyd W. Edwards, 24, of Honokaa, Nov. 25, Highway 19 between 46- and 47-mile markers, Honokaa.

27. Frances Souza, 83, of Volcano, Dec. 11, Highway 11 near 13-mile marker, Mountain View.

28. Francis B. Makaiwi, 45, of Hilo, Dec. 18, Highway 11 near 22-mile marker, Volcano.

*An autopsy found McCormick died of a heart attack although he was involved in a one-vehicle collision. Diaz’s death was also found to be caused by a medical condition unrelated to collision. Brown’s death isn’t counted because the fatal collision occurred within federal jurisdiction in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.
Source: Hawaii Tribune Herald

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