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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, February 5, 2006

Bill would set up special accident-probe team

By Will Hoover
Advertiser Staff Writer

Among the bills the House Committee on Transportation heard yesterday was one that could resonate with the multitude of O'ahu commuters vexed by frequent long waits while police investigate traffic accidents.

Known as the Bottleneck Breaker bill, HB 2655 was introduced by Rep. Rida Cabanilla D-42 (Waipahu, Honouliuli, 'Ewa).

The idea is to speed up the process by establishing a specially trained and equipped accident investigation team similar to those used in other states.

"In Hawai'i, average lane closures are two to four hours for major accidents and up to eight hours for a traffic fatality," Cabanilla said. "In California lane closures are less than half an hour for major accidents and less than an hour for traffic fatalities."

However, a Honolulu Police Department spokesman said Hawai'i investigators are trained exactly the same as the Mainland teams.

HPD opposes the plan, he said, because it would duplicate what's already being done, and there's no evidence it would be more effective.

"Everything she talked about we already do," said acting Capt. Bennett Martin of the HPD traffic division. "We are implementing those procedures."

He said Mainland teams appear to have faster investigation times because they have more alternate routes over which to redirect traffic during the investigations an option Island police don't have. He also said the specialized Mainland teams don't begin timing the investigations until after the team arrives at the scene.

Cabanilla said O'ahu's long investigation times are unnecessary and adversely affect the public and the Island's economy.

Committee member, Rep. Kirk Caldwell, D-24th (Manoa), said he doubted if the measure would go far this session because the state Department of Transportation is trying to implement something similar to the specialized Mainland investigative teams. Lawmakers will probably choose to give that process a chance, he said.

"But I don't think the public is going to wait long," he said. "If they continue to have four- and five-hour waits every time there's an accident, then something will have to change.

"I think they can do it better."

The committee deferred action on the proposal until tomorrow.

Reach Will Hoover at whoover@honoluluadvertiser.com.