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Maui teen’s memory sparks statewide impaired driving prevention campaign

All four counties markholiday weekend with sobriety checkpoints

Mothers Against Drunk Driving advocate Andrea Maniago and her 10-year-old daughter Ariana look over a candlelit table with cards and lei for each of the 15 people killed in traffic crashes this year on Maui County roads. The table was set up in front of the Wailuku Police Station before the third annual Hannah Brown Impaired Driving Awareness Checkpoint. The Maui News / LILA FUJIMOTO photos

WAILUKU — In the two-and-a-half years since Hannah Brown was killed in a crash caused by a drunken and speeding driver, her name has become linked with efforts to prevent impaired driving on Maui.

On Wednesday, the impact of the teenager’s death spread throughout the state with sobriety checkpoints held in her memory by Honolulu, Hawaii County and Kauai police departments to mark the start of the “No Excuses Hawaii” holiday impaired driving awareness campaign.

On Maui, police traffic officers were joined by Mothers Against Drunk Driving volunteers, Brown’s family and others for the third annual Hannah Brown Memorial Impaired Driving Awareness Checkpoint.

“All the change that started on Maui is being picked up statewide,” said police traffic commander Lt. William Hankins. “Hannah’s got the smile that’s infectious. She had so much going for her.”

The checkpoint Wednesday night was set up on Kuihelani Highway near the site of the June 23, 2019, collision that killed the 19-year-old Wailuku resident.

Family members of Hannah Brown and Kahiau Hill stand with police traffic commander Lt. William Hankins in front of the Wailuku Police Station on Wednesday afternoon, shortly before the third annual Hannah Brown Impaired Driving Awareness Checkpoint.

Police said the 2016 Subaru Forester, driven by a woman who admitted she was under the influence of alcohol and marijuana, was going the wrong way on the road and traveling in the Lahaina direction when it collided into the Kahului-bound 2003 Honda Civic that was in the proper northbound lane on the highway.

Brown, who was a passenger in the Civic driven by a 19-year-old man, suffered fatal injuries and died at the scene, police said.

In a public safety announcement on the Maui Police Department Facebook page, Charlene Brown said her daughter would have celebrated her 22nd birthday on Nov. 29. “For our family, Hannah will always be forever 19,” Charlene Brown said.

“You can help in remembering Hannah along with us,” she said. “Please do not drink and drive.”

Along Maui highways, the message was spread on state Department of Transportation electronic signs saying, “Remember Hannah Brown. 4Ever 19?! Slow down. Drive Sober.”

So far this year, police have seen a 150 percent increase in traffic deaths in Maui County with 15, compared with six at the same time last year. Speed and drugs or alcohol have been factors in nine, or 60 percent, of the crashes, police said.

The percentage of speed-related fatal crashes has climbed from 45 percent last year. Hankins said people seem to be in a rush and may be feeling fatigued by the COVID pandemic. “You add alcohol and it’s a recipe for disaster,” he said.

Both DUI arrests and speeding contacts by police have increased this year. Police have made 552 impaired-driving arrests, including 20 of habitual offenders, so far this year for a 22 percent increase over the 505 arrests at the same time last year.

Speeding contacts, including both citations and warnings, have increased by 52 percent to 5,409 so far this year, compared with 3,545 at the same time last year.

Hankins said the annual checkpoint in memory of Hannah Brown has grown. This year, Maui Powerhouse Gym joined as a sponsor to provide memberships, T-shirts and hats in some of the Mothers Against Drunk Driving goody bags handed out to sober drivers at the checkpoint.

“We hope that by memorializing Hannah at this event every year, especially as we enter the most dangerous time of the year for driving, people will stop and think before they get behind the wheel,” Hankins said. “Please remember there are families, like the Browns and many others on Maui, that have had to suffer the senseless and preventable loss of a loved one at the hands of an intoxicated driver. Impaired driving crashes are preventable. Please help us stop these heartbreaking losses.

“Make the right decision and if you intend to drink this holiday season, please do not drink and drive. Working together as a community to address this problem we can make a difference and help save lives.”

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

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