The author of Aliyah’s Law, a Hawaii County ordinance enacted in 2012 that allows police to order a vehicle towed at the driver’s expense, is questioning the implementation of the law named after Aliyah Braden, a 17-month-old toddler killed in fatal 2009 drunken driving crash.
The ordinance, which went into effect on May 3, 2012, in an effort to reduce the number of drunk drivers and traffic fatalities on the island permits the towing of vehicles of motorists driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, driving without a valid license or with fraudulent license plates or registration stickers.
It was named after Braden who was killed in 2009 when a drunken driver in a pickup truck ran a red light in Kailua-Kona and plowed into a car driven by the girl’s mother, Mayvelyn Braden, who suffered permanent injuries.
From September 2018 through July 2021, a two-year, 11-month period, there were 2,987 DUI arrests on the Big Island with 697 vehicles (23%) towed under Aliyah’s Law. Police said they were unable to provide data between 2016 and September 2018 due to a change in the department’s record system. During the first four years, 2,168 vehicles were towed under the law, according to newspaper archives.
It seems logical that the numbers of vehicles ordered towed under Aliyah’s Law would at least roughly correspond to numbers of DUI arrests in the different districts around the island. The numbers, however, tell a different story.
Kona had the most DUI arrests between Sept. 18, 2018, and July 28 of this year, with 1,253 arrests and 168 tows (13%). Hilo was second with 794 arrests and 250 tows (31%), followed by Puna with 534 and 225 tows (42%) and South Kohala with 275 arrests and 19 tows (7%).
In that time period, there have been 50 DUI-related traffic fatalities.
Former- South Kona Councilwoman Brenda Ford was the author of Aliyah’s Law.
“That’s terrible. They (police) are not implementing Aliyah’s Law appropriately,” Ford said of the 23% tow rate.
Ford said the law was written so police officers had the discretion on calling for a tow. Once towed, the driver was responsible for the towing charge and storage fee, and producing a valid license to claim the vehicle, valid insurance and valid registration.
“That’s why we wanted the towing: because they would have to bail their car out by complying with the law. They have 30 days to do that or the car can be sold by the tow yard,” she said. “Personally, I think they should do it every single time. If they did, these people would stop getting into their cars and driving. I had lost all patience with DUIs.”
Ford believes the police need to use the law more often to discourage drunken driving.
“It appears to me by the stats that the police have given up on getting the car towed. Shame on the police department,” she said. “I love the police department, but this is terrible.”
Mayor Mitch Roth was Hawaii County prosecutor at the time the law went into effect and helped Ford with the ordinance’s language.
“I think it should be applied more for DUIs,” he said. “I think it is being used for a purpose other than the way the law was written.”
Roth said he would like to see the law used as it was intended and allow officers to get the vehicles of impaired drivers off the road.
Police Chief Paul Ferreira did not respond to multiple requests for comment over a week’s period. The police department said late Wednesday it was still looking into the matter.
According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), a person is injured in a drunken driving crash every 2 minutes and every 51 minutes someone is killed on U.S. roads.
MADD Hawaii board member Kurt Kendro thinks Aliyah’s Law helps, but more needs to be done.
“Does it help? Absolutely,” he said. “It is only one part of the solution but is a positive part of the solution.”
Kendro said the greatest deterrent is the people, making sure they are not driving while impaired or letting people drive while impaired.
“We have got to get the people to prevent it. This is 100% preventable. They know the consequences. They know they can get killed or kill someone, hurt somebody, lose their car and their job,” he said. “It is not acceptable to drive impaired in 2021.”