Hawaii traffic fatalities in 2024 on pace with last year

May 5—1/1

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Ed Sniffen

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The first four months of 2024 were marred by 33 deadly collisions on Hawaii roads, including a fatal hit-and-run along a Haleiwa highway and a double-fatal involving bicyclists at an Ewa Beach intersection.

Police are still searching for the driver of a vehicle that struck a 39-year-old woman on March 21 as she walked along the shoulder of Joseph P. Leong Highway.

On March 24, a driver who lost control of his car plowed into two bicyclists — later identified as Naomi Mayer, 62, and James Rowland, 75, of Ewa Beach — as they crossed Fort Weaver Road.

The two were heading toward a pedestrian island in a crosswalk when they were hit. Mayer was pronounced dead at the scene, while Rowland was taken in critical condition to the hospital, where he later died.

Travis Counsell, executive director of the Hawaii Bicycling League, said it's the only crash he is aware of in recent history in the state resulting in the deaths of two bicyclists.

"It was a pretty severe crash in our books," said Counsell.

The bicycling league is working with Honolulu police to make sure there's a full crash investigation.

Counsell visited the site of the crash at Fort Weaver and Iroquois roads with Department of Transportation Director Ed Sniffen to look at possible ways to make the intersection safer.

That particular corridor in Ewa Beach, said Counsell, is of concern because it was designed to move a high volume of vehicles at high speed without taking other uses into consideration.

"That's one of the things we're expressing with DOT," he said. "Ideally, before a fatality happens, but especially after a fatality happens, the roadways are evaluated — whether it's reducing lanes, reducing speed limits or better control of traffic flow — so people walking and biking can feel safe, especially crossing the road."

Counsell said he is also working with the state and city to identify other high-crash corridors, and to commit to the "vision zero" goal of having zero fatalities through these types of efforts.

Last year, a record nine bicycle fatalities were reported statewide.

The total number of traffic fatalities in the state, so far, has remained on par with last year.

From Jan. 1 to April 30, there were 33 traffic-related deaths, compared with 33 during the same period in 2023, according to preliminary statistics from DOT.

The number of pedestrian- and bicyclist-­related fatalities, at 11 and two, respectively, ticked up through April 2024, compared with nine and 1 for the same period last year.

The fatalities continued in May with an 88-year-man being fatally struck on Moanalua Freeway by a motorcyclist Friday night, the 11th traffic fatality for Oahu in 2024.

Hawaii island recorded the highest number of traffic fatalities, surpassing Honolulu, which usually has the most. Hawaii County's traffic fatalities doubled to 16 in the first four months, up from eight last year.

Records show that speeding, reckless driving and drunken driving were associated with many of the fatal collisions.

In April, police arrested a 25-year-old woman involved in an alleged hit-and-run that killed a pedestrian.

Sienna Tavares-Brown faces multiple charges, including first-degree negligent homicide and driving under the influence, and leaving the scene without rendering aid.

Hawaii County prosecutors intend to seek an extended term of imprisonment under "Kaulana's law."

Senate Bill 2384, which sought to lower the blood-­alcohol concentration threshold while driving from .08 to .05, as recommended by the National Transportation Safety Board, never received a hearing by a House committee.

The bill was supported by the state Health Department and Honolulu and Hawaii county police departments, but was opposed by the Office of the Public Defender, representatives of Big Island Brew­haus and Lanikai Brewing Co., among others.

Another bill, introduced by House Speaker Scott Saiki after the hit-and-run death of McKinley High School student Sara Yara, cleared all hurdles.

House Bill 2526 increases to a Class C felony the penalties for a third or subsequent offense of driving without a license or with a suspended license. It also authorizes the court to order the person's vehicle to be subject to forfeiture as part of sentencing.

The bill has been sent to Gov. Josh Green for his signature.


Jan. 1 to April 30, 2024

>> State (33 total): 13 motor vehicle occupants; 11 pedestrians; 7 motorcycle/mopeds; 2 bicyclists

>> Hawaii County (16 total): 10 motor vehicle occupants; 5 pedestrians; 1 motorcyclist

>> Honolulu County (9 total): 1 motor vehicle occupant; 3 pedestrians; 3 motorcycles/scooters; 2 bicyclists

>> Maui County (4 total): 1 pedestrian; 3 motorcyclists

>> Kauai County (4 total): 2 motor vehicle occupants; 2 pedestrians

Source: Hawaii Department of Transportation