Speed kills, again

Kaua’i Police Department officers are doing their part to cite speeding drivers, but numbers of accidents and fatal accidents are both still up this year compared to previous years.

In a sense, they’d like to repeat what’s seen on some bumper stickers on the island: “Slow down; this ain’t the Mainland.”

But in many cases it is young Kaua’i drivers who aren’t heeding that advice, said KPD Lt. Mark Scribner, of the Patrol Services Bureau Traffic Safety Unit.

“We’re trying, but we need the help from the community, to slow down,” said Scribner as he and others investigate a single-vehicle accident that early Sunday morning claimed the life of Leonard Castillo, 24, of Waimea.

Speed was a factor in the one-vehicle crash that claimed Castillo’s life, officials said. It happened near the intersection of Kaumuali’i Highway and Waimea Canyon Drive in Waimea, near the West Kauai Technology & Visitors Center.

He was the sole occupant of a Jeep Liberty, lost control of his vehicle, and struck a tree, said Mary Daubert, county public information officer.

Castillo was transported to Kauai Veterans Memorial Hospital at the West Kauai Medical Center, about a minute away from the crash site, and died from his injuries at the hospital, Daubert said.

He is the 10th person to die on Kaua’i roadways this year, tying the number for all of last year and marking the most roadway deaths on Kaua’i since 1997, when 14 people perished in traffic accidents.

In 2004, most of the roadway deaths were due to speeding, with just one alcohol-related, Scribner said.

With five fatalities in 10 days last month, KPD officers are still awaiting autopsy results in several of those cases, so Scribner couldn’t say what percentage of 2005 fatal accidents may be attributed to drugs or alcohol.

He is certain that, if people slow down, fewer will die. “We just gotta have the people slow down. There’s only so far you can go on this island,” he said.

While the news of fewer alcohol-related fatalities is encouraging, and many drunk-driving arrests are being made, the plain truth is that, especially where young Kauaians are concerned, patience behind the wheel would help immensely, he said.

Scribner said speeding citations issued from May to October of this year numbered 1,527, compared to 654 for the same period last year, while the number of reckless-driving tickets issued jumped from two from May to October last year to 17 for 2005’s May-to-October period.

“These statistics are alarming,” said Scribner. “We urge everyone to please drive safely.”

Throughout the holidays, so-briety checkpoints will be set up at various locations around the island, and police will be checking for those driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, as well as other traffic violations, he said.

After a six-year period of single-digit numbers of roadway fatalities, from 1998 to 2003 (high of eight, 1998, and low of three, 1998), 2004 saw 10 road-way deaths, a mark equaled this year with 27 days left.

Of the 10 people who died on Kaua’i roadways this year, just one was a pedestrian.

Still, statewide, deaths of pedestrians, many of them killed while walking in marked crosswalks, have drawn the attention of Gov. Linda Lingle, who echoed Scribner’s call for attentive, safe driving.

Lingle said yesterday the state has the dubious distinction of vying this year to be the most dangerous place to be a pedestrian, in terms of percapita pedestrian fatalities (31 statewide through Monday, Dec. 5).

“For drivers, we cannot over-state the importance of staying focused and alert, obeying all traffic laws and speed limits, and never driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol,” Lingle said.

“In addition, particular caution should be exercised at dawn and dusk, when many traffic fatalities occur. And under the current law, if you don’t yield to pedestrians in a cross-walk, you will be fined $97,” she said.

“While it will take a combination of stricter laws, ongoing education, and various road-safety improvements to address this serious problem, we all need to use more caution and courtesy when driving and walking,” she said.

“This is not a partisan issue. It is common sense, and we should all join in the effort to ensure none of us feel like unprotected targets when we are crossing the street,” Lingle said.

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