County of Hawaii Offers Free Holiday Shared Ride Taxi Coupons to Stop Drunk Driving

Media Release:

County Motorists are strongly urged to avoid getting behind the wheel after drinking alcohol this holiday season.

Hawai‘i County is bringing back its free Holiday Shared Ride Taxi program this year to make our Big Island roads safer.

Now through January 1, 2010, selected establishments in East and West Hawai‘i will be offering inebriated patrons free shared ride taxi coupons as an alternative to driving away from the bar while under the influence.

At the same time, police will be on heightened alert for motorists under the influence, and will be setting up more DUI enforcement roadblocks around the island.

Hawai‘i County Mayor Billy Kenoi cited alarming rates of alcohol-related fatalities on Big Island roads for bringing back the free Holiday Shared Ride Taxi Program. It was discontinued in 2006.

“I am committed to making this a safe holiday season for all of our island families and visitors,” said Mayor Kenoi.

Last year 63 percent of the Big Island’s traffic deaths (19 of 27) involved alcohol. This year through November 17, half the fatal accidents on Big Island roads (10 of 20) involved alcohol, according to the Hawai‘i County Police Department.

On a per capita basis, the rate of traffic-related deaths per 100,000 people in Hawai‘i County is nearly three times higher than Honolulu’s, and twice the rate on Maui and Kauai.

So far this year’s 50 percent rate of alcohol-related fatalities is slightly lower than in past years. From 2001 through 2008, 58 percent of all fatal crashes on the Big Island involved alcohol. Yet the Big Island’s rate still exceeds the statewide average of 47 percent and the national average of 40 percent.

“Too many people” are still dying on Big Island roads,” said Dr. Sharon Vitousek, director of the North Hawai‘i Outcomes Project, which recently published the 2008 Hawai‘i Island Traffic Safety Report.

“Because of the increased DUI arrests, increased DUI convictions, and some improvements in roads, progress on the Big Island is being made,” said Dr. Vitousek. “Unfortunately, all the recent tragic traffic deaths since Labor day remind us that there is a lot more work to be done.”

While the lower rate of DUIs this year is encouraging, this is no time to let down our guard, said Mayor Kenoi. “We hope that the DUI road blocks and public service campaigns against driving while impaired are making a positive impact. But too many alcohol-related tragedies have occurred on our roads already this year,” he said. “Just one is too many.”

Police will be on heightened alert for drunk drivers again this holiday season, working with a federal DUI grant of $95,340 to set up enforcement roadblocks.

“Among our highest priorities is to make this holiday season as safe as possible for everyone on our Big Island roads,” said Hawai‘i County Police Chief Harry K. Kubojiri.

Chief Kubojiri also cautioned holiday revelers not to rely on the free shared ride coupons as they may not be available at every bar or nightclub, or supplies may run out. “Always have a designated driver available or make other arrangements to get yourself home,” he said.

Under the free Holiday Shared Ride Taxi Program, selected bar and restaurant managers will have a limited number of shared ride taxi coupons provided by the County for free distribution to patrons who have had too much to drink. Brochures, flyers and table place cards will be distributed to participating establishments to make patrons aware of the program and the extreme dangers of driving drunk. To insure the coupons are used only for their intended purpose, taxi drivers record the origin and destination of each fare to be turned in with the coupons for reimbursement.

The shared ride taxi coupons are the same as those available year-round from the Hawai‘i County Mass Transit Agency. Trips are limited to four miles with one coupon, or

up to nine miles with two coupons. Coupons are available for purchase throughout the year for as low as $2 each in a book of 15 ($30).

The Hawai‘i County Office of the Prosecutor is allocating $1,000 in drug forfeiture funds to purchase 500 specially marked coupons that will be distributed to area drinking establishments for their customers. Taxi companies redeem the coupons for reimbursement by the County Mass Transit Agency.

This year’s program for the first time includes a participating taxi company in West Hawaii, J&A Taxi of Kailua. Participating East Hawai‘i taxi companies are Ace One Taxi, Ali`i Taxi, Bay City Taxi, Bobby Taxi, Hot Lava Taxi, Marhysa’s Taxi, and Percy’s Taxi.

“I want to thank the taxi companies and the restaurants and bars for their willingness to participate in this important program,” said Mayor Kenoi.

“We have to stop drinking, driving and killing each other on our island’s roads. The tragedies are happening far too often and they are preventable. It’s about highway safety, and protecting our families.”

“Reducing deaths from drunk driving is a shared responsibility,” said Dr. Vitousek. “If friends really didn’t let their friends or family drive after drinking, we’d all be a lot safer this holiday season.

“I’m very pleased that the Mayor and County are so committed to even more enforcement over the upcoming holidays and to prevention through public awareness and the safe rides program.”

The holiday shared ride program is sponsored jointly by the Office of the Prosecuting Attorney, the Hawai‘i County Police Department, Hawai‘i County Mass Transit Agency, Department of Liquor Control and Office of the Mayor.

For more information, call Hunter Bishop, 961-8565.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

I do this to keep the spammers away * Time limit is exhausted. Please reload CAPTCHA.