Car Safety in Hawaii

Everyone remembers the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, but not many remember that Hawaii only joined the US in 1959, well after World War II. Pearl Harbor at the time was a US Naval outpost. Hawaii was the last state to join the US union, is the only the state located outside the America’s, being located in Oceania, and is the only state comprised solely of Islands. As a Pacific Island state it is home to 1 million permanent residents but is also a major global tourist destination. With hundreds of islands in the Hawaii Archipelago transportation is varied and dispersed between air, land and sea travel.

Hawaii, although comprised of hundreds of islands is best known for the 7 main islands that are also the most visited of the islands in Hawaii, except for Niihau a privately owned island closed to visitors and called the forbidden island. The 7 other islands include Hawaii (nicknamed the Big Island), Maui, Oahu, Kauai, Molokai, Lanai, and Kahoolawe. Residents and tourists alike in Hawaii need to be extra vigilant while driving in the state due to its very windy and narrow mountain roads that traverse most of the islands.

Driving the Islands

Since Hawaii is not like any other state in the United States, driving can often be a challenge depending on the island you are residing on or visiting.

The largest of the islands, Hawaii, is twice the size of the other 6 islands combined; creating a driving experience that is very different than even those other islands. With a well constructed road system around the entire island it is easy to visit almost all areas of the island. Even though there are a couple highways designed for speedier travel, there are just as many roadways that are curvy and have large hills and valleys because of the mountains across all the islands.

Driving in Hawaii is an experience in patience. Learn to slow down for multiple reasons. Generally the roadways were not meant for fast driving because of the topography of the islands, inclement weather can appear quickly without much notice and cause dangerous driving conditions including flash flooding and the prevalence of tourists cause many instances where an unaware driver will cause an accident.

Hawaiians generally do not use their horn while driving except in an emergency situation. Merging is also a generally accepted rule in the island state, because of the nature of the roadway system, where many smaller roads or tracks end or merge into larger roadways. Most local motorists are used to just edging their vehicles into the smallest available space in a “merge.” No matter where you are driving to on the islands of Hawaii, consider doubling your travel time to allow an on time arrival. If you are a tourist, remember the beauty all around you can distract your driving leading to accident situations. Either drive or stop to admire the beauty by pulling over on the shoulder or at certain rest or photo op locations.

Hawaii’s Interstate Highway System

Interstate? Many think that because Hawaii is not connected to other states, that when they see the term Interstate, it must be a mistake. In fact, there is an Interstate Highway System in Hawaii administered by the Federal government. Just because it is not actually connected to other states does not discount that it was in fact developed under the same principles of other Interstate highways on the mainland.

Interstate highways were developed after World War II to help in a number of strategic initiatives to improve transportation across the United States. The principles employed were to make roadways a system of integration of industry and population centers, use for strategic defense and military use, and as a service roadway system for US centers of commerce, agriculture, manufacturing, and industry. In this way, the Hawaii Interstate highways provided a way to visit most of the areas around the 6 islands most inhabited and visited in the chain of islands.

Hawaii DUI Laws

Up until 2011, Hawaii had one of the highest DUI fatality statistics in the country. As a result an ignition interlock device law was enacted to combat drunk driving. On you first DUI offence in Hawaii you will be required to install an IID in your vehicle. Hawaii follows the national legal limit of 0.8% BAC (blood alcohol limit) for legal age drivers. Yet if you are under 21, the Hawaiian legal limit is 0.2% according to their Zero Tolerance Law for underage drivers. Hawaii is also unique in that they have instituted a “Highly Intoxicated Driver” law that states anyone caught driving over a 0.15% BAC will face additional penalties and fees.

For a first offense there is a maximum 5 day jail sentence, $1000 fine and a 90 day license suspension. There are additional penalties if you were also transporting a minor (under 15) at the time of your DUI offense. For a third offense you would face up to 30 days in jail, $2500 fine, 5 year license suspension and 240 hours of community service.

Although Hawaii is one of the most beautiful states to drive in, it has also suffered from its historically high DUI fatalities. Since 2011, this statistic has been decreasing due to the IID legislation. Hawaii’s traffic death per 100,000 population is the 12th lowest in the nation however, making it a generally safe place to drive. Hawaii is a Personal Injury Protection No-Fault state for insurance purposes, meaning you must have insurance to cover personal injuries but may still be found at fault in civil litigation for property damage suits.


Did You Know That…

1. Interstate Highways in Hawaii are demarked as H1, H2 and H3.

2. Almost 80% of all traffic accidents in Hawaii were the result of speed or driving under the influence.

3. There are over 1 million registered vehicles in Hawaii.

4. Originally most of the large islands had a rail network, abandoned in the 1970’s.

5. Most inter-island travel now is done by airplane.

6. Circumnavigating the Big Island would take almost 6 hours, 250 miles, without traffic.

7. Driving from the Northwest side of Lanai to the Southeast side would take less than 1 hour.

8. Kahoolawe, smallest of the large 8 islands, has no permanent residents.

9. Mt. Kilauea Volcano has been continuously erupting since 1983.

10. Hawaii enforces ignition interlock on the first DUI offence.

Read also:

Car Insurance in Hawaii
Driving Schools in Hawaii
Car Accident Attorneys in Hawaii