November 26, 2009 – Kailua-Kona, Hawaii
VIDEO by David Corrigan
On Monday, the County of Hawaii held a press conference to announce the return of a free Holiday Shared Ride Taxi program this year to make Big Island roads safer.
But the Big Island is still planning on cracking down on those who take to the roads while inebriated.
Yesterday, Big Island police reminded motorists that officers will be conducting DUI checkpoints throughout the county in anticipation of the upcoming Thanksgiving weekend. The effort is part of a national and statewide campaign called “Drunk Driving: Over the Limit. Under Arrest.” Sergeant Kelly Ka’aumoana-Matsumoto, head of the Traffic Services Section, said police are reminding motorist of the consequences of impaired driving.
Officers from the Traffic Enforcement Unit and Traffic Services Section, supported by the Traffic Safety Coordinator representing the Impaired Driving Task Force, kicked off the Thanksgiving Holiday enforcement efforts on Wednesday. Police conducted a DUI checkpoint in Hilo, and reminded motorists about the hazards of drinking and driving by handing out literature on the subject and information about the Shared Ride Taxi Program.
The County of Hawaii Mass Transit Agency maintains this program all year long. Every individual is entitled to buy highly subsidized taxi coupons for as low as $2 each and use them with participating taxi companies.
In the video from Monday’s press conference, reporter Nancy Cook Lauer inquires about tougher prosecution for DUI arrests. The highly publicized story of a man in Hilo, convicted of 14 DUI offenses yet permitted to serve jail time on weekends alone, has raised questions in the community.
The answer ends up in a discussion about “ignition lock” legislation passing through the Hawaii statehouse, that would force offenders to install a device in their vehicle that would require the driver to pass a breathalyzer to operate their car.
Police say drunk driving was responsible for at least 10 of the 21 traffic deaths so far this year, amounting to 53 percent of the total. By comparison, 17 of the 27 fatalities recorded for all of last year, or 63 percent, were attributed to drunk driving.
“We need to get the message out that driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs kills,” said Ka’aumoana-Matsumoto. “Always remember to have a designated, sober and licensed driver before you start drinking. If you can’t find one, don’t take a chance –take a taxi!”.