If warnings fail, real traffic citations should come next
HPD will give motorists and pedestrians warning tickets for violating traffic laws.
HONOLULU appears to be well on its way toward continuing a deplorable record of pedestrian deaths, with seven people killed so far this year.
Pedestrians say drivers are reckless. Drivers say pedestrians ignore traffic signals or jaywalk.
Police Chief Boisse Correa says blame is not important, but acknowledging that Oahu has a dangerous problem is, and he is sending officers to the streets to warn people behind the wheel and those on foot about obeying traffic safety laws.
Police will be giving violators notices that look like tickets and list the penalties they would have to pay -- $97 for drivers, up to $80 for pedestrians -- if the tickets were real. Names of violators also will be written on the notices, Correa announced last week, in the hope of delivering the message.
The publicity campaign could help, but it is hard to imagine that drivers and pedestrians don't already know the laws and safety measures. Yet drivers persist in dodging around people in crosswalks, and pedestrians continue to jaywalk or cross against the lights. Thus the number of fatalities and injuries climbs higher. Just yesterday, an elderly man was critically injured when he was struck by a car as he was crossing North King Street in Iwilei.
After toughening speeding laws last year, the state Legislature is considering Gov. Linda Lingle's renewed proposals to increase penalties on motorists who fail to yield to pedestrians with higher fines, license revocation and jail time. In addition, measures for red-light cameras at intersections are on the table.
These deserve enactment, but without rigorous enforcement, no law can be effective.
Last year, 20 pedestrians were killed on Oahu. More than 400 others were injured. Each of these has had repercussions.
The family of Guo Xuan Yang, struck by a car in Kapolei last week, lost a husband and father. Beside the emotional loss, his young daughters and wife will struggle economically without the income and health insurance his job provided. The man who was driving the car that hit Yang will have to cope with causing the death of a fellow human being.
Hawaii ranked eighth in the nation for per capita pedestrian fatalities from 2000 to 2004 and fourth in 2005 for fatalities of people 65 and older, according to the AARP. These are not statistics to be proud of.
HPD's campaign and the state Department of Transportation's earlier effort aimed at protecting schoolchildren might aid in cutting those numbers. Correa says in a couple of months, officials will see if the campaign has made a difference. If not, police should cite violators, giving them real tickets instead of merely a warning.