Traffic stats show high speeds on Saddle Road

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HILO — Sammy Hagar, take heart. Saddle Road motorists can’t drive 55 either.

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HILO — Sammy Hagar, take heart. Saddle Road motorists can’t drive 55 either.

A West Hawaii Today analysis of data provided by the Hawaii Police Department showed most drivers were driving 60 mph or more last February, well before a law went into effect this week raising the limit to 60 mph.

In fact, one-third of all drivers drove between 60 mph and 65 mph, and slightly fewer drove between 55 mph and 60 mph. Another 3.9 percent drove more than 65 mph. As would be expected, morning and afternoon rush hour traffic is moving faster than the average speed.

Those feeling they’re always stuck behind the guy going 40 mph should realize only 3.5 percent of vehicles traveled at rates from the 40 mph bottom of the study to 50 mph.

The Police Department conducted what is known as a “Stealthstat” survey using radar detectors in early February 2016, monitoring the speed of cars by the hour for three days at mile marker 33. Some 22,289 vehicles passed the special detector, with two vehicles clocked at 99 mph and one topping out at the detector’s upper limit of 100 mph.

Hagar’s top 1984 single lamented the move to a national 55 mph speed limit, a law that was repealed in 1995, returning speed limit enforcement to the states.

Saddle Road, also known as “Daniel K. Inouye Highway,” is the third Hawaii highway to post a higher speed limit. The H-1 Freeway from the Makakilo On-Ramp to Honouliuli Stream Bridge and the H-3 Freeway on the Halawa side to approximately half a mile before the Harano Tunnels, both on Oahu, are also 60 mph.

Sgt. Robert Pauole, head of Traffic Services for the Police Department, isn’t a big fan of the speed change on the island’s major east-west thoroughfare, noting that most vehicles are traveling 5 mph to 10 mph over the speed limit anyway. There’s a chance that the traffic flow will simply adjust itself another 5 mph over their usual pattern, he said.

“The increasing speed limit is not going to change how officers do enforcement there,” Pauole said.

The department issues a couple thousand speeding tickets annually on the road.

The state Department of Transportation installed the signs following successful passage of a bill by Sen. Lorraine Inouye, a North Hawaii Island Democrat.

“I listened to my constituents who asked for a speed limit change on the Daniel K. Inouye Highway and I am pleased we were able to make it happen for the people of Hawaii County,” Inouye, Senate Transportation Committee chairwoman, said in a statement.

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She couldn’t reached for further comment by press time Friday.

The increased speed limit is effective from mile post 11.88 to Saddle Road’s intersection with Mamalahoa Highway (Route 190), except for slower speeds near Pohakuloa Training Area and between mile marker 19.57 and mile marker 20.

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