The Kaulana Bill – A family works for change

Their son is gone, but Ed and Paula Werner are attempting  to ease even a tiny part of the pain for the next parents who lose a child to an impaired driver. Kaulana Werner, then 19, was hit and killed nearly two years ago near the family house on Farrington Highway. He died in his father’s arms.

“You don’t ever want to be in our predicament,” Paula says. It is a predicament that shows no sign of abating, which hasonly added to the family’s grief, and convinced them to try and make major changes.

The alleged offender, who pled not guilty, had a blood alcohol concentration of .13 (.08 is the legal limit). She is charged with negligent homicide and failure to render aid, which both have 10-year maximums.

The trial was postponed for the third time in January. That inspired the family to get more than 50 people together to wave signs along the highway, where memorials still stand. More than 100 supported the family at the Kapolei City Lights Parade in December, riding and walking alongside a float in the shape of a football field that had “Maulana” spelled out in three-foot tall lighted letters.

While the Werner family waits in frustration, it gathered 12,000 signatures on a petition to get the legislature to introduce the Kaulana Bill. It would allow judges to extend sentences in felony negligent homicide or negligent injury  cases when the “defendant did not remain at the scene of the crime and render reasonable assistance to the injured person…” SB2582; HB2588,HD1

Ron Shimabuku, the Werner’s nephew who lived with them and considered Kaulana his brother, says the bill is an attempt to increase penalties and act as a greater deterrent. Often, he says, those who are found guilty are given concurrent sentences or even just two or three years.

Kaulana was dubbed “Fly High Wonder Werner” at Kamehameha, where he played football and baseball. The family has a picture of him in his football uniform pointing to the sky. It brings chills. For Kaulana’s family, walking out of their house — into the crime scene — does the same.

The family remains devastated, and powerless to deal with the postponements. It is fighting back the only way it knows, pushing the Kaulana Bill and awareness. The Werners are reaching out to schools and kids, trying to get them to say something if they see someone about to drive while impaired, even if it is their uncle or auntie.

“Drinking and driving is a terrible thing,” says Ed. “It’s time for our state to stand up. We voted for these people and I hope they can set some rules now, divert the next person from driving.”

“We just gotta wait and put it in God’s hands that these guys make the right decision. We’ve been waiting a long time already. Innocent people are dying.” If we all get involved we can save a life.