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Students see drunken driving consequences up close

Baldwin club participates in DUI checkpoint

Police juvenile investigator Andrew Cabral (right) stands with Baldwin High School students at a police intoxication checkpoint Saturday night along South Kihei Road as they hold signs reminding drivers not to drink and drive. ROXANA HOLLIFIELD photo

Some Baldwin High School students got real-life lessons in the consequences of drinking and driving when they watched police officers arrest impaired drivers at a checkpoint Saturday night in Kihei.

“A lot of times you think that would never happen to you,” said Roxana Hollifield, a Spanish teacher and adviser for the school’s Students Against Destructive Decisions chapter. “They really learned something for themselves, and it becomes more real.

“It helps them spread awareness.”

About 35 students from the school’s SADD and Peer Education Program joined police officers at the checkpoint near Welakahao Road. The students held signs reminding drivers not to drink and drive and to use their seat belts.

Police DUI Task Force Sgt. Nick Krau said the checkpoint was a success.

He commended the students and their advisers, Hollifield and Adam Bediamol, “for stepping up and helping to make our community a safer place for everyone.”

“We have come to rely on our community partners to help us spread awareness and educate the public about impaired driving,” Krau said. “The truth is, impaired driving is a problem in our community and we need the support and cooperation from everyone in our community to stop these preventable deaths from happening.

“The students brought a whole different level of energy, and having them stand out there with us in solidarity sent a strong message.

“The message is that impaired driving is no longer a problem for the Maui Police Department to deal with. Impaired driving is a problem that we are going to deal with as a community, and we are going to work together until we reach our goal of zero preventable impaired driving deaths in Maui County.”

On Saturday night, students handed out bottled water with messages thanking sober drivers for keeping roads safe, Hollifield said.

The checkpoint was held shortly before the start of the national Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over campaign that continues with increased enforcement through New Year’s Day.

Of the 22 traffic deaths so far this year in Maui County, at least 15 were alcohol- or drug-related, police said.

“The bottom line is that no matter the circumstances, you should never drive impaired,” Krau said. “It’s not worth the risk of putting yourself and others in danger, and no one has the right to put other people’s lives at risk.”

While police are working hard to apprehend and prevent impaired driving, they face “technology and members of our very own community and visitors to Maui working to hinder our lifesaving efforts,” Krau said.

He said some social media groups and pages, as well as numerous smartphone apps, have been developed to warn motorists of police checkpoint locations and activities. One such social media group has numbers equivalent to more than 11 percent of Maui’s population, Krau said.

“Although it might not have been the intention of the developer, this technology is being utilized as countermeasures by our residents and visitors alike to hinder our ability to save lives,” he said. “We appreciate smartphone technology that has allowed us to have unimaginable and constantly developing information at our fingertips, but giving drunk drivers a free tool to evade DUI checkpoints, putting innocent families and children at risk, is jeopardizing public safety.”

On Saturday night, students saw officers perform field sobriety tests on drivers and make two arrests for impaired driving, Hollifield said.

She said many of the students are juniors and seniors who are driving. Some were surprised to learn that someone arrested for DUI could have his or her driver’s license taken away for a year, Hollifield said.

“It was a really good experience for them to be able to learn and see it in a more real way,” Hollifield said.

With the checkpoint location nearby, a handful of students went to Pizza Madness to ask if they could use the restroom there, Hollifield said. She said the store manager asked what the students were doing and, after learning about the checkpoint, gave the students pizzas and chicken wings to feed them and police officers.

“It just shows you kindness and people willing to serve the community,” she said.

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