12-15-23 With 50 Percent of Traffic Fatalities in Past Three Years Due to Drugs, Police Urge Public to Drive Safely

Hawai‘i Police Department
Traffic Services Section
Torey D. Keltner, Program Manager
Phone: (808) 961-2305

Media Release

With the weekend approaching, Hawaii Police Department (HPD) reminds motorists that behind bars is no way to spend your holidays! During this busy festive season, HPD and the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) are teaming up for the If You Feel Different, You Drive Different. Drive High, Get a DUI. impaired driving awareness campaign, which runs from December 15, 2023, through January 1, 2024.

“Most people know the phrase ‘don’t drink and drive,’ however, they are less familiar with the impacts of driving impaired by prescription or illegal drugs,” said Torey Keltner, Program Manager for Hawai‘i Police Department’s Traffic Services Section.

Drivers need to understand that using some cold medications or over-the-counter sleep aids can impair your driving, which may lead to you being arrested for a DUI. Medications have directions on how to properly use them and people should follow them closely.

“This holiday season we mean business when it comes to traffic enforcement,” said Keltner. “District police commanders across the island are directing greater enforcement efforts this time of year in order to prevent dangerous driving behaviors like impaired driving.

“We are conducting more DUI road blocks and traffic enforcement operations in order to prevent people from being injured or killed.”

Over the past few years, drug impairment has been a significant factor in Hawaiʻi Island traffic fatalities.

In 2021, impairment was a factor in 21 of the 26 Big Island traffic fatalities, with drugs playing a role in 20 of the 21 impaired deaths. Last year, impairment was a factor in 18 of the 34 traffic deaths on island, with drugs playing a role in 14 of those deaths.

So far this year, there have been 16 traffic fatalities, with impairment playing a role in 10 of those deaths, with four deaths due to drugs. This number may rise, as officials are still awaiting toxicology reports in several cases.

Drugs specifically played a role in 38 of the 76 traffic deaths on island in the past three years,” said Keltner. “That means 38 families will not have loved one with them this holiday season, or ever again. The loss of even one life is not acceptable, this isn’t new information. People need to understand that if you use anything at all that impairs your abilities, don’t drive.”

“We are asking our community members to please make good decisions during the upcoming holidays and commit to sober driving.”

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