Let’s come together respectfully to prevent alcohol-related deaths

Viewpoint

It’s been really tough reading news report after news report of drunk drivers killing people on Maui’s roadways. We are facing a drunk-driving epidemic. These deadly drivers roaming the asphalt are so indiscriminate that even they do not know who the next victim will be. Ironically, this happens predictably year after year. These preventable tragedies send ripples through the community, leaving behind disabled bodies, broken hearts, depleted finances and a crowded justice system. How do we stop this?

As a community we have repeatedly spread the message that it’s time to drive sober. Recent legislation has made the law tougher on convicted drunk drivers. More arrests are being made by the Maui Police Department. The prosecutor’s office, under new management, is doing a fine job of prosecuting drunk drivers and connecting with the community on this issue. Mayor Michael Victorino is emphasizing the “Vision Zero” program. The Maui News is doing a phenomenal job on reporting these stories. Collectively all are great steps forward.

Is it enough, though? As memories fade and new stories capture the headlines, will we remember the families among us who have lost so much? Can enough safeguards be put in place to sustain a Vision Zero objective?

Perhaps the solution to impaired driving is on the Mauna. The practice of Kapu Aloha.

Whether you agree with TMT or not, there is much to be admired in the Kapu Aloha exemplified on Mauna Kea. At that higher elevation you’ll find higher individual standards, put in place for the good of the movement. The kupuna (elders) do not allow alcohol or drugs in the area. Violence, weapons and even tobacco are restricted. All of that is replaced with aloha . . . love for one another and love for the land, expressed in a dignified and respectful disapproval of the opponent. We are witnessing a disciplined, peaceful community organized to be alcohol free and drug free, so as not to compromise their integrity nor their capabilities. The world is watching and learning, as much history is being made.

Maui has a figurative mountain of tragedy that needs no further development. If we look beyond the drunk driver, you’ll find the liquor industry. The liquor commission recently voted to allow a bar or a restaurant to serve a patron up to 32 ounces of beer at a time. That counts as one drink. That decision has essentially put the interest of the liquor industry ahead of our safety.

While it seems nearly everyone else does all they can to curb drunk driving, the liquor industry is approved to pour out more alcohol onto our roads. The liquor commission was given testimony that day on the reasons to consider public safety first. We need our Maui liquor commission to get on board with the Mayor’s Office, the hardworking police officers, the prosecuting attorney’s office and the community at risk.

Our Maui liquor commission has the authority to be more restrictive than state law on the liquor industry. That is exactly what our community needs them to do. Sixteen ounces of beer at a time should be more than enough.

Let’s come together respectfully here in Maui County, for the aloha of one another, to prevent alcohol-related fatalities for the rest of this year and into the future. No more victims.

* Eric Lee Correa is a Maui volunteer for Mothers Against Drunk Drivers (MADD) Hawaii. He is a retired police officer, a former DUI task force officer, and a former vehicle homicide investigator.