LIHUE — There were eight fatal vehicle crashes on Kauai’s state roads in 2016, more than double the number in 2015, according to new data from the Hawaii Department of Transportation.
It’s part of an interactive map that’s been released from HDOT, detailing road conditions, planned roadwork, fatalities and other data sets in an online format that can be tailored to different kinds of searches — both statewide and county specific.
That data shows most of the fatal vehicle accidents on Kauai in 2016 were alcohol-related — 53.1 percent to be exact. Drugs came in second in the list of contributing factors, with 18.7 percent; followed by failure to yield at 9.3 percent.
Kauai Police Department’s deputy chief Michael Contrades said often KPD officers discover that alcohol is a common cause in traffic-related fatalities.
“With the holidays approaching, it is especially important to remind the public to drive responsibly. Always use a designated driver. It is never acceptable to drive while intoxicated,” Contrades said.
In 2015, there were three fatal crashes on Kauai’s state roads, down from a string of seven fatal crashes each year in 2014, 2013 and 2012.
Statewide, there were 109 fatal crashes on state highways in 2016, up from 85 in 2015, 94 in 2014 and 93 in 2012. Alcohol was the primary contributing factor in statewide fatalities as well, with 37 percent of fatal crashes on state highways involving alcohol. Drugs were next in line with 18 percent and speed came in third on the list of contributing factors with 10 percent.
“It’s difficult to pinpoint the reasons for the increase,” said Shelly Kunishige, with HDOT’s public affairs office. “What we did notice that in a number of fatal crashes and speed related incidents in 2016, many of the occupants were unbuckled. In fact, the number of unbuckled motor vehicle occupants was the highest it’s been since 2012.”
The data points to the top three contributors for fatal accidents in Hawaii as alcohol, drugs and speed, and the state is taking steps to help reduce those numbers. Primarily, those efforts are through programs like Walk Wise, Safe Routes to Schools, and Click It or Ticket, according to Kunishige.
The department has also sought to increase the penalties for drunken driving, speeding, and distracted driving.
“The contributing factors leading to these fatal crashes — drugged driving, drunk driving, speeding, and seat belt usage — are all choices. If we eliminate these factors, 65 percent of those killed on our highways go home every year,” Kunishige said.
The information shared with the public through HDOT’s map is the same information that HDOT has been using for prioritizing improvements to the highway system in general.
“We’re improving the data’s accessibility to our staff and the public, and improving the tools we use to deliver projects,” Kunishige said. “We need to ensure we reduce the fatalities and major crashes on our facilities, and that the system can perform efficiently to support future generations.”
Data shows, for instance that there was a fatal crash on Kuhio Highway and Anini Vista Drive in 2016. At that spot the annual average daily traffic count is 13,300 cars per day; the pavement condition was fair — on a scale of good, fair, poor — as measured in 2015; safety improvements are scheduled in the area and are in the design phase; and currently there is ongoing construction on Kuhio Highway near that area.
“We’re sharing the data we’ve collected with the public in the interest of transparency,” said HDOT deputy director for Highways Ed Sniffen. “Now members of the public can easily access highways safety and other helpful information that is used to guide our programs.”