Stronger efforts needed to boost pedestrian safety
Hawaii's pedestrian death rate is on the verge of exceeding last year's rate, despite a new law to increase safety.
A NEW LAW aimed at increasing pedestrian safety in Hawaii has failed to lower an unacceptably high level of fatalities
. The pedestrian death rate is likely to surpass last year's rate, which was fourth highest in the nation. Police and state officials are taking proper actions and should not be discouraged by motorists' failure to change their driving habits.
Thirty-one pedestrians were killed by motor vehicles last year, 10 of whom were in crosswalks when struck. That amounts to a death rate of 2.65 per 100,000, compared to a national rate of 1.67. In one recent weekend, three pedestrians died in unrelated accidents in Hawaii. With nearly six weeks left this year, 30 pedestrians in the state already have been killed.
A law that was enacted by this year's Legislature was supposed to lessen the problem. The law requires drivers to stop and yield to pedestrians who are in a crosswalk in the motorists' half of the roadway or approaching closely from nearby lanes. Violators face fines and court costs of nearly $100.
Police used the law to cite 954 pedestrians for jaywalking and 402 motorists from failing to yield to pedestrians during a three-week period in September. The Honolulu Police Department has launched a traffic safety campaign to educate drivers and pedestrians about the law, and the state Department of Transportation also plans a media campaign to spread the word.
Governor Lingle is asking legislators to consider strengthening the new law, perhaps requiring motorists to halt for pedestrians who are in a crosswalk at any part of the roadway. Some people have said the law is difficult to understand and needs clarification.
The city and state also need to accelerate efforts to make crossing roads safer. The city took five years to install traffic lights near schools at Kapolei, and Kalihi residents have been asking for nearly two years that a light be installed at a crosswalk by the Co-Cathedral of St. Theresa following the death of an elderly woman struck by a sport utility vehicle.
In a recent column on this page, Kapolei resident Bernard G. Judson pointed out that pedestrians are to blame for taking undue and illegal risk. Every day, Judson wrote, he sees children, sometimes with adults alongside, jaywalking across Makakilo Drive, where a teenager lost his life earlier this year when struck while crossing the street to catch a school bus.
Not only should city and state agencies do what they can to make streets safer, parents play an important role in making sure their children don't come into harm's way by jaywalking.
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