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DUIs Drop Dramatically With COVID-19 Pandemic

March 30, 2020, 5:15 PM HST
* Updated March 30, 5:22 PM
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Statistics show social distancing may be keeping roads safer across Hawai‘i County.

Business closures, park closures and opting to stay-in over going out due to concern over the COVID-19 pandemic have all helped keep roadways less jammed than usual at most hours of the day. Concurrently, Big Island DUI arrests over the previous two weeks have plummeted, implying a possible cause-and-effect relationship between social events and DUI statistics.

On Tuesday, March 17, police reported 25 motorists were arrested for driving under the influence of an intoxicant during the previous week. One week later, that number dropped to 13.

On Monday, new numbers were released showing that police had made only three DUI arrests over the previous seven days. None of the drivers were involved in a traffic accident and none of the drivers were under the age of 21, police said.

DUI Arrests by District
District Weekly Total   Year to Date
Hāmākua 0 4
North Hilo 0 0
South Hilo 1 72
Puna 0 54
Ka’u 0 3
Kona 1 105
South Kohala 1 18
North Kohala 0 6
Island Total 3 262

HPD Assistant Chief Robert Wagner said there are too many factors to consider with DUIs to say with certainty that the precipitous decline in DUI arrests week-over-week is attributable to bars closing down or people being less publicly social in general.

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“I would imagine it’s a combination of things/events,” Wagner said.

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A lack of visitors could also be contributing to fewer DUIs, as tourism has all but dried up. In late March, 2019, visitor arrivals to Hawai‘i regularly topped 30,000 per day. On Sunday, only 826 people landed at state airports, including only 167 visitors.

 

Tim Sakahara, a spokesperson for the Hawai‘i Department of Transporation, said visitors include college students returning home who have out-of-state IDs and people relocating to the state. There were 34 relocators among the 167 visitor arrivals Monday.

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Whatever the reasons, the downturn in DUIs is helping level off what started out as a deadly year in 2020, a fact evident in year-over-year fatality statistics from the department.

To date, there have been seven fatal crashes resulting in seven fatalities compared with three fatal crashes resulting in three fatalities for the same time last year.

So far this year, there have been 262 DUI arrests compared with 294 during the same period last year, a decrease of 10.9%. There have been 228 major accidents so far this year compared with 243 during the same period last year, a decrease of 6.2%.

DUI roadblocks and patrols will continue islandwide.

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