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Police: New traffic enforcement strategies are working

Police DUI Task Force Sgt. Nick Krau (center) talks with DUI Task Force officers (from left) Aaron Williams, Kunal Chopra, Matthew Turpen and Christopher Visaya before setting up a checkpoint on South Kihei Road earlier this year. • The Maui News / LILA FUJIMOTO photo

Some new enforcement strategies and more participation from Lahaina patrol and other officers contributed to significant increases in citations for seat belt and cellphone violations during the recent Click It or Ticket campaign, police said.

Throughout Maui County, officers issued 615 citations for seat belt violations during the two-week enforcement that ended June 4, for a 56 percent increase from the 395 citations issued during the campaign last year, said Assistant Chief John Jakubczak.

He said 180 citations were issued to drivers using cellphones or other mobile electronic devices, compared with 81 citations last year, for a 122 percent increase.

Other increases were in citations for passengers improperly riding in the beds of pickup trucks, which rose to 12 from five, and child seat violations, which increased to 28 from 24.

Ninety-two drivers were stopped for driving without a license, up from 83 last year. Thirty-four people were caught driving with a suspended license, up from 25 last year.

Speeding citations dropped to 46 this year, compared with 119 last year, for a 61 percent decrease.

“Education is working in certain areas, and we need more education in other areas,” Jakubczak said, discussing the traffic statistics last week during a Maui Police Commission meeting at the University of Hawaii Maui College.

Deputy Chief Dean Rickard said that the main purpose of the solo bike unit of motorcycle officers, deployed in January 2016, is traffic enforcement.

“Everyone knows they can sneak up on vehicles and pop out of nowhere,” Rickard said. “Is it a good thing? I think it’s a good thing.”

Contacted after the meeting, Lt. William Gannon, commander of the police Traffic Section, said that the annual Click It or Ticket enforcement campaign benefited from more participation by Lahaina patrol officers this year.

“We had more support,” he said. “We had a bigger buy-in.

“Let’s see what happens next year. We were able to hopefully make a big impact.”

He said Maui County is doing well, with seat belt use compliance measured in the low- to mid-90 percent range.

A state report based on monitoring of seat belt use at various locations has helped police do more enforcement efforts on areas measured as having lower compliance, Gannon said.

“Our efforts have been more focused,” he said.

In addition, the DUI Task Force is starting work earlier to do additional enforcement, Gannon said.

“It shows in our numbers,” he said.

This year, with federal funding, the section initiated saturation patrols, deploying DUI Task Force officers to look for impaired drivers around certain events, Gannon said.

While some impaired drivers may not be stopped at DUI checkpoints, “you can’t avoid being stopped if you’re weaving on the road and an officer is behind you,” Gannon said.

He said DUI Task Force officers also are trained as drug recognition experts to determine when drivers are under the influence of drugs.

“We have been trying different things this year, so it seems to be paying off,” he said.

Money collected from traffic fines goes to the state general fund.

* Lila Fujimoto can be reached at lfujimoto@mauinews.com.