Crosswalk penalty bill likely dead
House lawmakers are unlikely to pass a bill today that would put tough new penalties on drivers refusing to stop for pedestrians in crosswalks, including losing their licenses after a first offense, according to House leadership.
Rejection of the tough measure when it goes up for a final vote would kill it for the session, even if it moves out of the Senate.
The law requiring drivers to stop rather than yield when a pedestrian is in a crosswalk on the driver's side of the road was passed just last year, but the measure did not include specific penalties for violating the law.
The new penalty bill wound its way through both houses and received approval in late April from a conference committee.
However, House Majority Leader Marcus Oshiro said the bill's details came to his attention only yesterday.
"I know it's an important bill ... but I thought these penalties might be unduly punitive and rather extreme," he said.
Under the measure, the penalty for a first offense would be a fine of at least $150 and a 90-day revocation of the driver's license. A second offense would mean at least a $300 fine and 180 days without a license. And after a third offense, the driver would have to pay at least $1,000, lose his license for a year and face 30 days in prison.
Oshiro said the first-time penalty is the equivalent of the punishment for a first-time offense for drunken driving, and the third-time penalty is the same as for a petty misdemeanor such as marijuana possession.
"I don't think we're going to pass it out like this," he said.
Sen. Lorraine Inouye, chairwoman of the Senate Transportation and Government Operations Committee, said she would be open to a floor amendment today to soften the penalties.
But Oshiro said an amendment would be too difficult to complete with only days left in the 2006 regular session.
Legislators will need to come back next year to put stronger penalties into law, he said.
This year, Gov. Linda Lingle submitted the bill to introduce stiff penalties. And she listed the crosswalk legislation among her administration's triumphs of the session Monday, even though it had not received final approval.
Last year, more than a third of Hawaii's 36 pedestrian fatalities happened at crosswalks.
And of the 1,625 injuries to pedestrians during the five years beginning in 1998, 68 percent were using crosswalks. The highest numbers of injuries were among those younger than 14 and older than 65.