Police cast a net for drunk drivers

LIHU’E – If you’ve had that third drink and you notice you’re a little buzzed

as you climb in behind the wheel of your car, remember this: The Kaua`i Police

have set up random motorist sobriety checkpoints throughout the

island.

According to police statistics, drunk driving isn’t a problem that

has shown any sign of going away in the past few years.

So far this year,

there have been 159 arrests for driving under the influence. In 1998, 325

citations were written for DUI and 297 cases were cleared as people pleaded

guilty or were convicted. Ten were juveniles.

In 1997, 239 suspected drunk

drivers were cited. All but 17 were convicted. Seven of the offenders were

juveniles.

The random DUI checkpoints are “for the safety of the

community. If they see us out, and in force, (maybe) people won’t drink as

much,” said Sgt. Joseph Kaauwai, the acting traffic safety supervisor and a

17-year-veteran of the Kaua`i Police.

A local Alcoholics Anonymous member

said some members begin attending meetings after being pulled over by law

enforcement.

But Dr. Gerald McKenna, director of the Ke Ala Pono drug and

alcohol program at the McKenna Center in Lihu’e, said offenders often don’t get

treatment as soon as they should.

“Usually, they get sent to a driver

education program, sometimes a couple of times before they get sent on for

treatment,” McKenna said.

He added that many of the people snapped up in

DUI checkpoints are probably alcoholics.

“On any given day, someone who is

not alcoholic may get picked up at a DUI checkpoint. But it’s about as likely

as getting kicked to death by a rabbit. We see people getting DUI after DUI and

not getting referred to treatment,” McKenna said. “They think what they need is

education, when what they need is treatment. A lot of alcoholics drive around

after drinking because their driving is not impaired because of their high

tolerance” to alcohol.

Still, McKenna approves of the police effort.

“I

think the DUI checkpoints are good,” he said.

Officers manning the

checkpoints will also make certain that juvenile passengers are wearing their

seatbelts.

All police will say about the checkpoints’ wheareabouts is that

they will be set up at various times on various days on various parts of the

island. There will be no discernible pattern, officials said.

Police

reminded that if you drink, you shouldn’t drive.

Staff writer Dennis

Wilken can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 252) and [

HREF=”mailto:dwilken@pulitzer.net”>dwilken@pulitzer.net]

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