Ahead of holiday season, advocates and first responders join forces to keep roads safe

According to recent state data, one-third of drivers involved in fatal crashes in 2022 had either drugs or alcohol in their system.
Published: Nov. 16, 2023 at 7:30 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Mothers Against Drunk Driving and first responders are ramping up campaigns to catch intoxicated drivers over the holidays.

According to the state’s Department of Transportation, one-third of drivers involved in fatal crashes in 2022 had either drugs or alcohol in their system.

Russell Pang, spokesperson for HDOT, said in 2020, 25% of drivers in fatal crashes tested positive for drugs. In 2021, that number increased to 43% and in 2022, 33%.

“Now what’s even more alarming is that the outpacing of alcohol impaired driving in recent years by drug impaired driving,” said Pang.

Ed Werner is disappointed and disturbed by the numbers.

His son, Kaulana, died in his arms after he was hit by a drunk driver near the family’s Nanakuli home seven years ago.

“100% preventable and people get behind a wheel being impaired you know, they need to take full responsibility when something goes bad, especially when you lose a loved one,” said Werner. “For me and my family, we’ve been going through that for the past seven years.”

Werner’s advocacy led him to join Mothers Against Drunk Driving in their “Tie One on for Safety” Red Ribbon Campaign.

The ribbons are a visual reminder to everyone to plan ahead before holiday celebrations begin.

It’s a message 32-year-old Brittney Cass hopes people take seriously.

“I have spent the last 22 grueling months of my life trying to get it back,” said Cass. “I’ve had a total of eight surgeries now.”

Last year, Cass was hit-head on by a drunk driver in North Carolina. She was flown to a hospital and was in a coma for five days.

Cass said both of her femurs, tailbone and back were fractured and her right knee was shattered. The mother of three was wheelchair-bound but can now walk on her own.

She said any driver who gets behind the wheel while impaired can instantly harm an innocent person. “Be safe on the roads, wear your seatbelt, be mindful of others and just think like you want to get home safe and so does the person next to you, in the car next to you,” said Cass.

“And it matters. They all have families and friends.”

Before you head out to celebrate, MADD said make a plan to have a designated driver or use a ride-sharing service.

And if you see an impaired driver, call 911.