Police say some drivers have restored their vehicles to comply with the law after traffic officers issued 483 citations and arrested 18 people during a nine-day crackdown focused on lifted vehicles with wider tires and illegal window tinting.
"Operation RECON," which ran from Nov. 16 to Tuesday, targeted illegally reconstructed vehicles.
"It looks like we made an impact," said acting Sgt. Dawn Danley, who coordinated the Traffic Section enforcement effort. "We see a lot of vehicles that were cited with the stock tires back on. But there are still a lot out there."
She said officers will continue to enforce the violations as part of their regular duties.
"We just want people to start complying," Danley said. "We don't want to have to cite for every violation on the vehicle to get people to comply. It is costly. It's dangerous."
In the past couple of years, at least three people have died in Maui traffic crashes involving lifted or oversized trucks, which have their center of gravity altered, making them less balanced.
The fatal crashes included one Sunday afternoon on the dirt roadway at Pauwela Lighthouse. A 12-year-old Kula boy, who was the front-seat passenger in the 1984 Toyota pickup driven by his father, died when the truck swerved to avoid a tire and overturned onto its passenger side, police said. The boy wasn't wearing a seat belt and was partially ejected, police said.
In January, a 20-year-old Makawao man died when he lost control of his lifted truck with oversized wide tires, hitting a guardrail on Crater Road in Kula.
Another death involving a lifted vehicle occurred in November 2010 when a 1-year-old girl on a tricycle was hit by a neighbor's vehicle on a private driveway on Hui Road F in Napili, police said.
During "Operation RECON," Vehicle Homicide and DUI Task Force officers worked day and night hours in Kihei, Lahaina, Upcountry and Central Maui, finding violations at all locations, Danley said.
"It's not in any particular area," she said. "It's all over."
The citations included 128 for vehicles without fenders, 58 for illegal window tint, 51 for vehicles without mudguards and 17 for vehicles without bumpers. Officers also gave out 49 speeding tickets, two excessive speeding citations, 42 cellphone violation citations, 31 seat-belt violation citations, two citations for child restraint violations and 16 citations for not having auto insurance. Two citations were for disregarding a red light.
The arrests included 17 for people driving under the influence of an intoxicant.
In addition, Thomas Russo, publisher of Maui Time Weekly, was arrested Nov. 20 when he began using his cellphone to videotape one of the traffic stops on Haleakala Highway and didn't comply with officers' instructions to stay a safe distance away, police said. He was released after posting $3,000 bail on charges of obstructing government operations, harassment and resisting arrest.
In online video he posted, Russo indicated he went to Haleakala Highway because of reports of a traffic backlog.
Part of the slowdown, Danley said, was caused by drivers who were trying to see what police officers were doing. "People were slowing down, and they were looking at what we were doing," she said.
Downhill traffic wasn't backed up past Haliimaile, as some people claimed, she said, but it was slowed above Firebreak Road - a common occurrence after 7 a.m. on weekdays.
Under Maui County ordinance, vehicles with tire treads that extend past fender wells can be cited, with the violation carrying a $72 fine.
In most cases during the enforcement, officers issued one citation to violators, Danley said, although drivers can be cited separately for each tire.
Similarly, she said most of those found with illegal window tint were issued one or two citations, depending on whether a windshield was illegally tinted. Citations, carrying a $287 fine, can be issued for each window, which could add up to eight windows on a sedan, Danley said.
Under the law, window tint that allows less than 35 percent of light to be transmitted is illegal for the driver's and front-passenger windows on trucks, vans and sport utility vehicles. The 35 percent standard applies to all windows of sedans.
For windshields, tinting cannot go below the manufacturer's AS1 line. For older-model cars without the line, tinting cannot go lower than 4 inches from the center of the windshield.
All fines collected from traffic enforcement go to the state general fund.
Police said the risk of fatal traffic collisions increases with factors including impaired driving, speeding, not using seat belts, oversized wide tires, vehicles higher than the manufactured suspension and dark window tints.
Of the 21 traffic deaths on Maui County roads this year, 12 of those who died weren't wearing seat belts, police said. Seat belts weren't a factor in the other nine deaths, which involved motorcyclists or pedestrians.
* Lila Fujimoto can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.