Fatal Crashes, Road Rage Incident Draws ConcernNovember 20, 2019, 6:00 AM HST (Updated November 19, 2019, 9:29 PM)
Hawai‘i Island residents remember a time when driving with Aloha was a practice motorists followed daily.
In the past 12 days, there have been four fatal crashes and at least one road rage incident across Hawai‘i County’s roadways. Police also responded to an incident where a man had fallen off the back of a moving pickup truck after losing his grip while holding on to a mattress tied down to a camper shell.
These frequent tragedies have the community collectively saddened and concerned about what’s happening on the Big Island’s roadways.
Koapaka Puahala captured the road rage incident on video in Puna Tuesday afternoon, hours after a head-on crash in Kailua-Kona left one woman dead and another in critical condition. Overall, he said the consideration level among those sharing the road has gone down “big time.”
Members of the Vision Zero Task Force have been acutely aware of the fatalities. The group, which started in February 2019, hopes to create an action plan by next year on how to make Hawai‘i Island’s roads safer.
“These crashes remind us of the importance of the work we’re doing and the need to pursue Vision Zero,” said Tina Clothier, member of the task force and strategic projects director for Peoples Advocacy of Trails Hawaii (PATH).
This month, Vision Zero released data that indicated 110 fatalities and crashes were reported between 2013-17. Approximately 27 crash maps were created to identify the most problematic areas across the island.
In their discussions, Clothier said, the task force addresses several reasons why the fatalities are occurring on the roadways. One is road engineering and the other is education.
Clothier put out a plea to road users to “please be careful.”
“Think about your own safety as well as your families as well as the others you share the road with,” she said.
As of Tuesday evening, there have been 21 fatalities this year compared to 27 the same time last year. Hawai‘i County Police say every year crashes are similar in breakdown. There seems to be difference in the type of accidents, general location and cause, and there also seems to be no pattern as to why the fatal crashes are happening.
While the holidays are in full swing, Hawai‘i Police Assistant Chief Robert Wagner said there is no noticeable uptick observed during this time of year.
Wagner said at least two of the crashes in these past 12 days he knows were preventable. Tuesday’s morning crash is still under investigation and it is too soon to tell.
“Generally speaking, inattention to driving is the biggest problem in crashes, such as rear end collisions,” Wagner said. “…DUI is a big problem in traffic deaths. Speeding also is an issue, and occasions not wearing seatbelt. The way our roadways are designed adds to the fatality rate.”