Drive it home

LIHUE — Traffic violation numbers have dipped this past year and Kauai Police Department officials attribute the decline to effective enforcement and safer driving habits.

Moving violation numbers in 2012 totaled 8,189, compared to 10,629 in 2011 and 8,668 in 2010. Only 2009 had fewer violations with a total of 6,495 tickets issued that year, according to KPD reports.

There have been 4,134 moving violations so far this year through June. This has the island on pace to reach 8,268 and would just top the 2012 numbers.

“We are still enforcing speeding violations and it appears that the public is getting the message by slowing down,” said Kauai Chief of Police Darryl Perry.

KPD is not doing anything differently to account for the varied numbers, Perry said. An indicator of a successful enforcement program is a reduction in violations and fatalities, Perry said. There have been three road fatalities so far on Kauai in 2013, while there were eight in 2012, six in 2011, 10 in 2010, and eight in 2009.

“It appears that people are more aware of their driving habits and the speed in which they are traveling,” Perry said. “Part of the reason is the number of electronic digital signage along the roadways.”

To put reduced speeding in perspective, Perry compared rates of cell phone and seat belt or child restraint violations. Any demonstrated decrease is associated with effective enforcement that leads to better compliance, he said.

After becoming a state law in 2010, driving while texting or using a cell phone citations peaked with 1,166 violations. The numbers tapered off to 870 in 2011 but stand to increase in 2013 with 521 so far through June.

New Hawaii State Judiciary data shows that police do not target visitors disproportionately when it comes to speeding tickets.

The Hawaii State Judiciary reports that Kauai residents accounted for 9,743 convictions from Jan. 1, 2009 through July 18, 2013. There were 988 citations that did not result in a conviction.

During that same period there were 1,516 speeding convictions of drivers with an out-of-state license. There were 24 that resulted in no conviction or 13 percent of all convictions.

KPD does not keep statistics on where drivers are from. Perry said the police treat visitors and locals alike when it comes to warnings and tickets.

“The issue is whether they were given adequate warnings with posted speed limit signage and not whether they are a visitor or a local,” Perry said.

Daily radar enforcement activities are based on a variety of variables. Perry said they include complaints or an assessment of problem roads, such as long stretches of highway that are conducive to speeding.

There were 232 OVUII (driving while intoxicated) citations in 2012, compared to 221 in 2011, 274 in 2010 and 288 in 2009. There are 117 so far in 2013.

All it takes is a few bad eggs to create a dangerous situation, he added. These are drivers who run stop signs, speed, drink, talk and text on their cell phones and don’t use seat belts.

Speeding and moving violations are potential road hazards and Perry said there are no competing priorities that take attention from road safety.

“Believe it or not, everything we do is a priority, but yes, people are driving safer,” Perry said. “Although you still have those who are still distracted and/or do not wear their seat belts.”

Perry said the complaints that police issue tickets on a quota system is not the case. Enforcement is an attempt to curtail the leading causes of road-related fatalities on Kauai, such as speed and alcohol, he said.

“There is no quota system and those assertions are not true,” Perry said. “Remember that the county doesn’t get a dime from citations. They go directly to the state except under special circumstances relating to the Safe Streets law.”

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