HONOLULU (KHON2) — Oahu freeways turned into a parking lot last year as dozens of cars stopped to watch the New Year’s Eve fireworks, police warned against stalling on the freeways this year and said they will enforce zero tolerance for those who do not obey the law.
Honolulu Police Department Captain James Slayter said he is thankful last year’s stalling on the freeways to watch the fireworks did not result in any major accidents.
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Slayter said, “I was so grateful that we didn’t have a traffic fatality, I mean you had families, small children, they had tents, tables, chairs. That’s tons of dangerous situations left and right.”
He said parking on the freeway shoulder is one of the worst spots to watch fireworks, as drivers and those who step out of their cars could be distracted staring up at the sky.
HPD will have added officers on the road and increased patrol.
Slayter said, “The primary focus is again preventing the loss of life or property, officers will be out there in force not only for the traffic safety but also for that freeway that we had last year.”
A new law will take effect next year, as the state tries to counter the import of illegal fireworks into the islands. The law aims at keeping better track of firework shipments coming into the state, it will require each county to submit an annual report to the Hawaii Legislature, which will include legal firework inventory and sales to license and permit holders.
State Senator Chris Lee said this should monitor the movement and sales of fireworks. Lee said, “Having a basic accounting for at least those permits that are being filed, how things are being imported and how that looks like, it’s sort of the first step to figuring out some of the gaps in the process.”
HPD responded to approximately 800 calls for illegal fireworks last year, but officers only issued 32 citations and one arrest.
Slayter said proving someone was lighting or in possession of illegal fireworks could be a challenge.
Slayter said, “There will be plainclothes officers out there trying to basically catch people in the act because that’s the actual way we can give a citation for it, we have to actually see people with the fireworks.”
Officers said people can remain anonymous when reporting illegal fireworks in their neighborhoods, but they said providing a written witness statement for prosecution would be even more helpful.