Number of Fatalities Prompts Concern 08/25/00

HAWAII COUNTY POLICE DEPARTMENT
OFFICE OF THE POLICE CHIEF
PHONE: 961-2244
AUGUST 25, 2000

MEDIA RELEASE

Noting the large number of traffic fatalities so far this year, Police Chief Wayne Carvalho urged Big Island motorists to obey traffic laws, especially those concerning drunk driving, speeding and the wearing of seat belts.

The Big Island traffic fatality toll is far ahead of the number of fatalities recorded at this time last year and tied with the number recorded at this time in 1998, a record year for traffic fatalities, Carvalho said.

As of Sunday, August 20, 2000, Hawaii County had recorded 26 traffic fatalities resulting from 23 fatal accidents. This compares with 19 fatalities recorded at this time last year and 26 recorded during the same period in 1998.

There was a total of 31 traffic fatalities recorded in all of 1999 and 44 recorded in 1998.

Speed, alcohol and failure to use seat belts have been major contributors to this year’s fatality count, Carvalho said.

Speed was a factor in nine of the 23 vehicle accidents that resulted in the 31 fatalities.

Alcohol has been confirmed as being involved in seven of the crashes, and as of August 20, 2000, the Traffic Enforcement Unit was awaiting lab results in three other fatalities suspected of involving alcohol.

Seat belts were not used in eight of the 16 fatal accidents involving vehicles with seatbelts. Of the remaining fatal accidents, six involved motorcycles and one involved a pedestrian.

As of August 20 this year, 126 of the 797 drivers arrested for DUI had been arrested after being involved in traffic accidents.

Chief Carvalho noted that last year, police made a record number of DUI arrests — 1,207. But he said that even though this year’s DUI arrest totals are ahead of last year’s at this time, 797 to 774, traffic fatalities continue to rise, and could be headed toward a new record.

“Despite our increasing success in arresting drunk drivers, driving while intoxicated remains a serious problem and a major cause of traffic fatalities,” Carvalho said.

“We are finding that many DUI arrestees are repeat offenders, so the current penalties against drunk driving apparently aren’t doing enough to keep drunk drivers off the road. Perhaps it’s time for the State Legislature to seriously consider legislation allowing us to impound the vehicles of repeat DUI offenders so they can no longer drive.”

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