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Oahu traffic deaths rise in first 5 months

Nov 03, 2023Nov 03, 2023

May brought more traffic-related deaths, pushing the state's tally higher.

From Jan. 1 to May 31, there were 41 traffic-related deaths, compared with 56 during the same time period in 2022, according to preliminary statistics from the state Department of Transportation. But for Oahu, the numbers increased to 27 fatalities compared with 23 at the same time last year, with double the number of motorcycle-related deaths — 12 compared with six at the same time last year.

Three of these fatal motorcycle crashes occurred within the same week during motorcycle safety month in May, due mostly to speeding, according to Honolulu police.

DOT over Memorial Day weekend launched the "100 Safe Days of Summer" campaign in partnership with four county police departments, encouraging motorists to drive sober, at a safe speed, and wear seat belts. Last year, DOT counted 116 traffic-related fatalities, adjusted downward by one after further analysis. Even with that adjustment, it was a deadly year, higher still than in 2021, 2020 and 2019.

Of these fatalities, DOT said, lead contributing factors were impairment by either drugs or alcohol, speeding and not wearing a seat belt.

In 2021 nearly half, or 46% of drivers killed in fatal crashes, tested positive for alcohol or drugs. In 2022 speed contributed to 41% of crashes, while 40% of motor vehicle occupants in a fatal crash were not wearing a seat belt. Motorcycle crashes made up about 30% of traffic-related fatalities, with the majority of riders not properly licensed.

This summer, officials said there will be a step-up in enforcement with sobriety checkpoints, additional saturation patrols, enforcement of speed limits, and seat belt checks.

For the first five months of this year, there also have been three bicycle-related fatalities, equal to the same time period last year. On Tuesday, Maui Police Department reported another bicyclist fatality in Lahaina, which would bring that tally to four so far this year. Police said that morning, a 62-year-old man on an e-bike was struck by a Toyota Tacoma pickup while attempting to travel east across the Lahaina bypass near Honoa­piilani Highway. He was ejected onto the roadway, and succumbed to his injuries at the scene.

The third bicycle-related fatality on Oahu occurred the night of May 12 on Kalanianaole Highway in Hawaii Kai. A bicyclist in his 20s was struck by a vehicle while trying to cross the highway near the Keahole Street intersection in a marked crosswalk. Honolulu police said the "do not walk" sign was lit up at the time, and that the driver who struck the bicyclist was traveling eastbound at the time of the collision at about 8:10 p.m.

Police counted it as the 26th traffic fatality on Oahu this year, but said speed, drugs or alcohol did not appear to be contributing factors.

In April, a 68-year-old man riding a bike was struck by a motorist near Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam at night. The bicyclist was wearing a helmet, but was pronounced dead at the scene.

The fatalities are all concerning, according to Travis Counsell of the Hawaii Bicyclist League, who sought more information on what happened in Hawaii Kai.

"I think all in all, we’re certainly seeing more people riding bikes," he said. "There's an upward trend now that people are rediscovering bikes, which happened during the pandemic, and people are dusting of their old bikes. We’re seeing that."

The league's goal is to bring bicycle fatalities to zero through improved infrastructure, education, awareness and enforcement. That was part of the impetus for Bike Month in May, when the league held a bike helmet giveaway and smart cycling clinic in Manoa.

"HBL's perspective is the number should be zero," he said. "Anytime there's a death or serious injury, it sparks us to have a serious conversation."

In addition to the fatalities, there were several hit-and-run incidents involving vehicles and bicycles. On the evening of May 21, a motorist struck a 74-year-old bicyclist from behind as he was traveling north on Fort Weaver Road. The motorist fled the scene, police said, possibly in a light-colored passenger van. The bicyclist was taken to the hospital in serious condition.

Another hit-and-run occurred in mid-March, when an unknown motorist struck a bicyclist on North King Street in Kalihi. The bicyclist, 29, was not wearing a helmet and was taken to the hospital in critical condition.

For the first five months of this year, there have been 13 fatalities involving motor vehicle occupants, 11 involving pedestrians, 13 involving motorcycles and scooters, three involving bicyclists, and one involving an ATV operator. Nine of those fatalities involved homeless people.


Traffic-related deaths in Hawaii, Jan. 1 to May 31:

>> State (41 total): 13 motor vehicle occupants, 11 pedestrians, 13 motorcycle and scooter operators, three bicyclists, one ATV operator

>> City and County of Honolulu (27 total): eight motor vehicle occupants, four pedestrians, 12 motorcycle and scooter operators, three bicyclists

>> Hawaii County (nine total): five motor vehicle occupants, three pedestrians, one ATV operator

>> Maui County (four total): three pedestrians, one scooter operator

>> Kauai County (one total): one pedestrian

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