Despite having one of the nation’s highest rates of seat belt use, Hawaii’s number of traffic fatalities last year went up, bucking a national trend when it increased 13 percent to 135 deaths, compared to 119 in 2002. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) yesterday announced that the fatality rate on the nation’s highways in 2003 was the lowest since record keeping began 29 years ago. But Hawaii saw the fourth largest increase, behind the District of Columbia (43 percent), Rhode Island (24 percent) and Delaware (15 percent). The largest decrease in fatalities was reported in Colorado (15 percent).
“America’s roads and highways are safer than ever,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta.
A total of 42,643 people died U.S. roads last year, compared to 43,005 in 2002.
According to the agency, the number of traffic-related injuries also went down from 2.93 million in 2002 to 2.89 million last year as did pedestrian deaths, declining 2.1 percent. However, motorcyclist fatalities increased from 3,270 to 3,661, a 12 percent rise.
So far this year, the death toll on Big Island roads is considerably higher than it was at this time last year, with 23 deaths reported as of last month compared to 15 in 2003. On O`ahu, the number is down slightly from 43 last July to 36 this year. There have been eight traffic deaths reported so far on Maui and seven on Kaua`i.