In wake of horrific crash, lawmakers look to strengthen DUI laws

(Image: Hawaii News Now)
(Image: Hawaii News Now)
Updated: Feb. 1, 2019 at 6:38 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Lawmakers on Monday will start hearing proposals aimed at cracking down on those who drink and drive.

The push comes in the wake of a crash on Monday night in Kakaako that left three pedestrians dead and several other severely injured.

The 27-year-old driver, who police say smelled strongly of alcohol and was slurring his speech, has been charged with three counts of manslaughter.

“The bottom line is if you get behind the wheel impaired, you know what you’re doing," said state Rep. Chris Lee, whose district includes Kailua and Waimanalo. “You know what the risk is. If you kill someone, that’s not manslaughter. That’s murder.”

According to the National Highway Safety Administration, one out of every three traffic fatalities in Hawaii is alcohol-related. That’s the fifth highest rate in the nation.

[Read more: Police: Driver in triple-fatal pedestrian crash smelled strongly of alcohol]

[Read more: Families of 3 crash victims mourn loved ones who did so much in life — and had so much yet to accomplish]

“People make decisions. Those decision lead to consequences," said Capt. Ben Moszkowicz, of the HPD Traffic Division. “Sometimes, those consequences are tragic.”

Among the bill lawmakers are considering this session: A proposal that would prohibit the public sale of alcohol to people with alcohol-related convictions.

If it passes, Hawaii would be one of the first states in the country to implement the law.

“It would create another level of protection rather than just taking someone’s car away which they may need for a job,” Lee said. “It would actually prohibit them from putting themselves in a place where there’s the potential for driving under the influence.”

There’s also a push to establish a state toxicology lab.

Right now, every island except for Oahu has to send its blood and urine samples to the mainland to have them tested.

“The toxicologist would be here," Moszkowicz said.

“The people who conducted the test and the chain of custody, all those people would be here, which makes prosecution in those cases where the person is under the influence of some sort of impairing substance, it makes those prosecutions a lot easier.”

In the aftermath of Monday's tragedy near Ward Centre, Lynn Kawano takes an extended look at the timeline of events leading up to the triple-fatal accident.

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