Kakaako crash victim's widow gives emotional testimony in support of tougher DUI laws
State lawmakers are trying toughen up penalties for drunk-driving.
State lawmakers are trying toughen up penalties for drunk-driving. They're considering new legislation that would prohibit convicted drunk drivers from buying or publicly consuming alcohol for 3 years.
Thursday, they heard from a woman who's life drastically changed because of an alleged drunk driving incident.
"It should have never happened," said Melissa Lau, the wife of William Travis Lau, a local man who was killed in a fatal crash in Kakaako on January 28th.
Two others were killed in that crash and several others hurt.
Channeling her pain, the new widow asked state lawmakers to toughen up DUI penalties.
"We need to do something big, we need to do something major so that in the future people aren't hurt. People aren't killed like this," she said.
Sitting next to her at the hearing was William Travis Lau's father, Dr. Bill Lau. He said his wife couldn't attend Thursday not just out of grief for her son, but because her mother was also killed by a drunk driver.
"The laws are good but I think enforcement of the law needs to be racked up," he said.
Melissa Lau spoke in support of House Bill 703 which would ban anyone convicted of operating a vehicle, or habitually operating a vehicle, under the influence of alcohol from purchasing or publicly consuming alcohol for a period of three years.
Current state law requires first time offenders to pay fines up to $1,000 dollars and suspend their licenses for 90 days. The penalties increase with each new offense.
Lau's attorney, Rick Fried said if this passes it'll pump the breaks on Hawaii's growing trend of alcohol-related deaths.
"We're too small an island to have that big a percentage of the deaths due to alcohol," Fried said. "It's something that should be solvable."
Not all are for it. The office of the Public Defender provided written testimony calling the 3-year period "excessive," opposing the reclassifying of a third offense to a felony, and asking the state to focus on treatment rather than punishment.
In the end, the bill passed the House Judiciary Committee with amendments but no opposition.