WAILUKU - Stepping up enforcement throughout the island at night as well as day, Maui police officers issued 850 citations during the two-week nationwide "Click It or Ticket" campaign that ended Sunday.
The number of citations, most for seat belt and child restraint violations, was more than three times the 255 citations issued during a similar enforcement period last year.
"When we first started out, there were a lot of violations," said police traffic officer Dawn Danley, who coordinated the annual effort. "By the end of the campaign, we noticed the compliance went up, both during the day and in evening hours, too.
"Hopefully, people learn and realize that it actually may save their lives."
As the campaign was ending Sunday, traffic investigators were called to an early-morning fatal crash in Hana that underscored the importance of using seat belts. A 19-year-old Hana man died after he was partially ejected when a pickup truck he was driving crashed into a utility pole and overturned.
During the campaign, traffic officers did seat belt enforcement in the Kahului, Wailuku, Upcountry, Kihei and Lahaina areas. Citations also were given by patrol officers throughout the county.
The 587 seat belt and child restraint violations included 409 for drivers not properly using seat belts. Seat belt citations also were given for 129 passengers 15 years or older and 13 passengers between ages 8 and 14.
State law requires all front seat occupants and back seat passengers ages 17 and under to use seat belts. The fine for seat belt violations is $92.
There were 16 citations for children ages 4 to 7 who weren't properly secured in booster or child seats and 17 citations for children under age 4 who weren't in child seats. For the child restraint violations, drivers are required to appear in court and attend a four-hour class.
Three citations were for children ages 12 and under riding in the back of pickup trucks.
Other traffic citations included 60 to drivers using cellphones, 57 for speeding, 53 for drivers without insurance and 24 for driving without a license. Officers also made six arrests, including three for driving under the influence of drugs, all during daytime hours.
Danley said many of the citations were issued in Paia and Central Maui.
The nighttime enforcement, done on South Kihei Road near Piikea Avenue and twice on Market Street in Wailuku, yielded 121 seat belt citations, 13 criminal citations and 10 other citations.
During the two-week enforcement period, there were some repeat offenders, Danley said.
She said some of the seat belt citations went to drivers improperly wearing seat belts under their arms or, in the case of older model vehicles, not using both shoulder and lap belts.
Wearing a seat belt under the arm can result in greater injury if there's a crash, Danley said.
She said some people complained about pain from seat belts or had doctor's notes describing injuries. They were issued citations and told they could take up the issue in court, Danley said.
"They try to find every excuse not to wear their seat belt, but the bottom line is it keeps them safe," she said. "We just hope everybody starts wearing their seat belts and makes sure that kids are buckled up, too."
Money from the traffic fines goes to the state.
Statewide, seat belt use was measured at 97.6 percent last year. Another survey will be done in late June and early July to measure seat belt use this year.
A large number of the Maui traffic citations were issued by Danley, who worked hard to organize the stepped-up enforcement as well, said Lt. David Silva, commander of the police Traffic Section.
"We want to make sure that everybody is wearing a seat belt," he said. "If not, we have to enforce the law."
* Lila Fujimoto can be reached at email@example.com.