Give helping hand to pedestrians in crosswalks
Five of the eight traffic fatalities this year were elderly pedestrians, three of whom were trying to cross a street.
AN eruption of pedestrian fatalities
in the first three weeks of this year has drawn deserved attention to a problem on Hawaii's roadways that has existed for years. Proposals that have been rejected in the past as bothersome require legislative action to provide protection in crosswalks and sanction irresponsible and dangerous motorists.
Five of Oahu's eight traffic fatalities since Jan. 1 were pedestrians ages 73 to 81. Two of the victims were walking in marked crosswalks, one was crossing in the middle of a street and two were on sidewalks.
Hawaii had the fourth-highest pedestrian fatality rate in the country in 2005, and 669 accidents involving pedestrians were reported last year. The state has the highest rate of pedestrian fatalities among people age 60 and older, according to AARP Hawaii.
A short-lived "van cam" project aimed at catching speeding motorists five years ago might have made legislators timid about ambitious traffic controls. A proposal by Rep. Joe Souki to use cameras for catching motorists running red lights was rejected by last year's Legislature after being linked to a bill raising the penalties for driving into occupied crosswalks.
Gov. Linda Lingle is again proposing to raise penalties on motorists who fail to yield to pedestrians in crosswalks, with a $150 fine and 90-day license revocation for the first offense, a $300 fine and 180-day revocation for the second offense and a $1,000 fine and 30-day jail term for the third offense. Current law provides for no license revocation or jail term for offenders.
Souki, chairman of the House Transportation Committee, said he will consider the proposed penalties, but is expected to push again for operations of red-light cameras at intersections. Both measures merit enactment.
AARP is calling for the state to fund a study of state and county intersections that are threats to pedestrians. Numerous crosswalks across wide streets warrant installation of countdown indicators advising pedestrians of the seconds remaining before the signal turns red. The city Department of Transportation Services plans to ask for $200,000 to pay for the purchase and installation.
Even before the recent fatalities, the state Department of Transportation had planned a $100,000 media campaign aimed at protecting school children from traffic. The public service announcements started airing this week on television and radio.
Various approaches are needed to stem the growth of a state Capitol exhibit featuring 156 pairs of slippers representing the number of pedestrian fatalities during the past five years.
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