Local families, MPD rally against impaired driving amid year of increased traffic deaths

Families who lost loved ones to drunk or impaired drivers participated in a sign waving event alongside police on Kaʻahumanu Ave. in Kahului as part of an awareness effort as police continue their Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over campaign during the holidays. (12.23.21) PC: Kehaulani Cerizo

Grieving a loved one lost to impaired driving on Maui roadways never gets easier. 

Just ask any surviving family member at a sign-waving event Thursday evening in Kahului, said Lt. William Hankins, Maui Police Department’s Traffic Division commander.

Andrea Maniago with Mothers Against Drunk Driving, lost her son, Kaio Fukushima, 16, to a collision caused by a drunken driver in 2009.  (12.23.21) PC: Kehaulani Cerizo

“Effects that these families feel from these losses in these crashes is forever; it’s not something that goes away in time,” he said. “Time does not heal.”

The rally comes ahead of the holidays and during a year when traffic fatalities have spiked nearly 50% from the previous year.

The Brown, Sadang and Maniago families, each of whom have lost youngsters to the impacts of impaired driving, rallied Thursday along Ka’ahumanu Avenue outside Queen Ka’ahumanu Center. They were joined by MPD officers and other participants, such as Council Member Yuki Lei Sugimura.

“I need to do it — I need the word to be spread to drive safely or drive sober — because losing a child or anyone to a drunk driver is one of the worst things,” said Andrea Maniago, who has volunteered with Mothers Against Drunk Driving for about 12 years. 

Maniago lost her son, Kaio Fukushima, 16, to a collision caused by a drunken driver in 2009.

“I wish we never had any car crashes, but since we do, I’ll keep doing this until I can’t do it anymore,” she said.

Maui Police Chief John Pelletier and Deputy Chief Charles Hank met with families and held signs during the Thursday event. Pelletier told families he would help spread awareness against impaired driving. 

He added that residents should heed public service announcements and other efforts to drive safety on Maui County roadways.

“I don’t think we can ever be numb that senseless tragedy and senseless loss of life is something that affects all of us,” Pelletier told Maui Now. “You never know when you could be on the other end of that phone call or the other end of the knock at the door.”

“No one planned on their loved ones being taken from them but unfortunately that’s what happens. So I would say to everyone, ‘We’re in this together.’”

The Maui Police Department launched its Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over campaign last week and will continue with increased enforcement through the end of the year.

Hankins said Maui County has 15 traffic fatalities this year compared with eight the same time last year. Of this year’s deaths, nine are related to alcohol, drugs and speed.

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