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
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
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
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.
think the DUI checkpoints are good,” he said.
Officers manning the
checkpoints will also make certain that juvenile passengers are wearing their
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.
reminded that if you drink, you shouldn’t drive.
Staff writer Dennis
Wilken can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 252) and [