Overtaking creates deadly highways in Hawaii

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A father and a community hero.


That’s what was lost on the morning of May 22nd when Hawaii Island Fire Department Captain David Mahon was killed instantly in a head-on collision on Highway 190.


Police say Christopher Helmlinger was trying to overtake several vehicles in a no-passing zone on the two-lane highway when he struck Mahon head-on.


Mahon’s tragic death is one of six fatal accidents involving overtaking in 2019, accounting for about one-fifth of the state’s total of motor vehicle fatalities.


“Passing on a two-lane highway is probably the most dangerous driving tactic you’re going to try.” Wong Way Driving Academy instructor Steven Wong said.


Passing on a two-lane highway is legal without a solid stripe in your lane, but according to Wong, it’s incredibly difficult to judge your speed and distance, that of the car you’re passing, and that of oncoming traffic in the opposite lane.


“You’re putting yourself in harm’s way by putting yourself in oncoming traffic.” He said.


“So if you miscalculate your speed or distance you could have a head-on collision which is generally very dangerous and deadly.”


Kauai resident Tianne Miyoshi is one of many neighbor island drivers who travel two-lane highways often.


“It’s super scary,” Miyoshi said.


“I have a two-year-old daughter and it makes me not even want to go out at night anymore. It’s during the day as well. It’s so scary.”

Overtaking on a two-lane highway might not save as much time as many might think.


For example, if a driver were to travel a distance of 10 miles at a speed of 55 miles per hour, they would only arrive at their destination a minute faster than if they drove 50 miles per hour.


With the risk and reward, Miyoshi is puzzled why she sees so many drivers overtaking.


“We live on the Koloa side, and we have two-lane roads and we go the speed limit, which is 40, sometimes 25, and people just take us over and miss literally inches from the front of our car. Every single night there’s someone who passes us.”


Wong believes that a minuscule amount of time is never worth someone’s life.


“It’s not worth it to save a couple of minutes to endanger your life and other people’s lives trying to pass another vehicle. It’s not a good idea.”


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