Gov backs stiffer pedestrian laws
Severe penalties are needed to change people's behavior about pedestrian safety, Gov. Linda Lingle said yesterday.
She testified before members of the Senate Committee on Transportation and International Affairs at the state Capitol.
People will be more alert if they know they could potentially lose their license, pay a fine or go to jail if they continue to violate pedestrian safety laws, Lingle said.
"I do feel that severe penalties are needed," she said.
Lingle testified in support of two bills that would stiffen penalties for violators, better protect Hawaii's elderly pedestrians on the roadways and appropriate money toward ongoing improvements on crossing signals.
House Bill 375 House Draft 1 clarifies a driver's duty to stop or yield the right of way to a pedestrian in a crosswalk when traffic signals are not in place or operation.
Imposing stiffer penalties for violators will not solve the problem, but will help people rethink and change their behavior, Lingle said. "I think penalties are just one part of the solution to this problem of pedestrian safety," she said.
"During the years of 2003 through 2006, there were 122 pedestrian fatalities in Hawaii. Since January of this year, there have been an additional 12 pedestrian fatalities in our state," Lingle said in written testimony. "Both drivers and the pedestrians must increase awareness in order to stop this unnecessary cause of death to our residents and visitors," she wrote.
Lingle said she often sees pedestrians at the Pali Highway and Vineyard Boulevard intersection near Longs not using the crosswalk.
"They'll cross right on the median strip, which is completely planted," she said. "I've seen people do it who have a walker, and they don't go to the corner. They'll try it in the middle of the streets.
"No one should have to lose a life because they crossed a street," Lingle said.
The bill also calls for tougher fines and penalties on violators, with a proposal from Lingle's administration that first-time violators face a $150 minimum fine and a minimum 90-day license revocation.
A two-time offender would face a $300 minimum fine and a minimum 180-day license revocation. A third violation would mean a $1,000 minimum fine, one-year license revocation and 30 days in jail.
The Senate Judiciary and Labor Committee is expected to hear the bill next.
Another bill, HB 806, HD 1, requires the Department of Transportation to conduct a study to identify intersections where the time to cross the road is too short for elderly pedestrians.
Eight of 10 pedestrians killed on Oahu so far this year were over age 65.
The bill is to be heard by the Senate Ways and Means Committee.
BILLS LINGLE SUPPORTS
Gov. Linda Lingle testified before the Senate Committee on Transportation and International Affairs yesterday in support of:
» House Bill 375, House Draft 1, which clarifies a driver's duty to stop or yield the right of way to a pedestrian in a crosswalk when traffic control signals are not in place or operation. It also calls for stiffer fines and penalties for drivers and pedestrians who fail to comply with the crosswalk law.
» HB 806, HD 1, which requires the Department of Transportation to conduct a pilot study to identify intersections where the time to cross the intersection is insufficient for elderly pedestrians.