No tolerance for drinking and driving

Everyone knows drinking and driving is stupid and can have severe consequences.

And yet, many Americans still do just that today, Super Bowl Sunday. It’s a big day for football fans, and it’s a big day to drink at a friend’s home or a restaurant, root for your team, and then drive home. But don’t do it. Be safer and smarter than that.

This is one of those times where numbers are necessary to tell the story.

• About one-third of all traffic crash fatalities in the United States involve drunken drivers (with blood alcohol content of .08 or higher). In 2017, there were 10,874 people killed in these preventable crashes. On average over the 10-year period from 2006-2016, more than 10,000 people died every year in drunken-driving crashes.

• In every state, it’s illegal to drive with a BAC of .08 or higher, yet one person was killed in a drunken-driving crash every 48 minutes in the U.S. in 2017.

• Of the 1,233 traffic deaths among children ages 0 to 14 years in 2016, a full 214 (17 percent) involved an alcohol-impaired driver.

• In 2016, more than 1 million drivers were arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol or narcotics.

• And most recently, during the week of Jan. 21 through Jan. 27, Hawaii Island police arrested 28 motorists for driving under the influence.

Hawaii is actually ranked among the top 10 states in the nation with the lowest number of impaired driving deaths per capita. Hawaii ranked 42nd in the nation with less than three impaired-driving fatalities per 100,000 residents. The report was compiled using data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and census data to determine which states have the highest traffic fatalities related to impaired driving.

Preliminary data shows that of the state’s 120 traffic fatalities in 2016, some 71 (59.2 percent) had alcohol and/or drugs in their system, which increased from 54.8 percent in 2015.

The law should take a tough, no-nonsense approach to drinking and driving. It is inexcusable. It puts the lives of not just the driver at risk but the lives of others on the road. That’s why we’re glad to see that state representatives and senators are reviewing several strong new laws aimed at drunken and impaired driving.

“These types of deaths are avoidable. It’s frustrating, especially when you know people who have been involved, and we all do,” said Rep. Chris Lee, Chair of the House Judiciary Committee. “When someone is under the influence and kills someone while driving, it is not an accident, it is murder.”

Well said. Drinking and driving can’t be looked at with tolerance. The penalties can’t be light.

Lee was joined by Rep. Della Au Belatti, Sens. Karl Rhoads, Lorraine R. Inouye and Breene Harimoto, and members of the Honolulu Police Department and MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) in recently announcing their efforts. The group detailed some bills already introduced and asked the public for ideas that should be included in legislation under consideration.

“I’ve had close calls as a pedestrian just walking to work,” said Rhoads, chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee. “We are discussing several good bills but will look at every good idea that will help prevent this in the future.”

Some of the bills include:

• HB703: Prohibits any person convicted of operating a vehicle under the influence of an intoxicant or habitually operating a vehicle under the influence of an intoxicant from purchasing or publicly consuming alcohol for a period of three years following conviction or administrative license revocation.

• HB753: Requires compliance with the ignition interlock program before an interlock device is removed. Allows for a constant sobriety program.

• SB641: Adds the definition of “substance abuse” and amends the definitions of “drug” and “substance” for purposes of operating a vehicle under the influence of an intoxicant violations.

• SB645: Requires that the revocation of license period be tolled for any period in which the person does not have an ignition interlock device installed on a vehicle owned or operated by the person. Establishes requirements for removal of the ignition interlock device. Allows a defendant to enroll in an alcohol or substance abuse education or treatment program, or a sobriety program.

• HB757 The Vision Zero bill would require the state Department of Transportation and county transportation departments to adopt a vision zero policy that seeks to prevent and ultimately eliminate all traffic fatalities through a combination of engineering, enforcement, education and emergency response strategies that focus on equity.

We hope the Legislature pursues the toughest laws in the nation against drinking and driving. If people insist on drinking and driving, then the state should insist on severe penalties for dealing with them.

  1. Justmyopinion February 3, 2019 8:10 am Reply

    Can someone tell me, if SB645 becomes law, which includes this clause, “Allows a defendant to enroll in an alcohol or substance abuse education or treatment program, or a sobriety program” , and if legislation passes to legalize recreational marijuana, will a person enrolled in the program be allowed to use recreational marijuana? Because in California, they are allowed. While enrolled in the program, they are tested randomly for drugs but NOT tested for marijuana. To me, that like telling an alcoholic, who is in an AA program that it’s ok to drink wine.

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