GEORGE F. LEE / GLEE@STARBULLETIN.COM
Honolulu police officers on foot at the intersection of Bethel and Pauahi streets were ticketing drivers Friday afternoon for traffic violations. CLICK FOR LARGE
Safety improves for pedestrians
Despite an early rash of fatalities, injurious accidents are down this year, police say
A pedestrian is hurt by a vehicle nearly every day on Oahu.
But despite that grim statistic, new traffic safety initiatives seem to be working.
The number of injuries so far this year -- 186 -- is below the 209 hurt in the same period last year, police say. Part of it might be greater awareness after a spate of fatalities early in the year.
But as state and county officials launch more safety programs, AARP members and others say they find drivers more courteous and pedestrians more alert when crossing the street.
Lt. Gov. James "Duke" Aiona signed two proclamations yesterday aimed at improving vehicle safety as specific campaigns focus on motorcycles, seat belt enforcement and designated drivers.
What started out as a deadly year for pedestrians on Oahu has shown some signs of improvement. The number of pedestrians injured by vehicles so far this year is slightly lower than at this time last year.
As of yesterday morning, 186 pedestrians have been injured by vehicles in 2007, according to the Honolulu Police Department.
"That's nearly a pedestrian every day or every other day," said Maxie Navas, an HPD officer who gives pedestrian safety talks. "That's a lot."
By the end of April last year, there were 209 pedestrian injuries.
Police officers are hoping the trend continues downward, especially with a pedestrian safety campaign in its second month.
"I think people are more aware of pedestrian safety," said Lt. Jerry Wojcik, who heads the campaign.
The number of pedestrian injuries "should go down this year," he said, "but it's no guarantee. Human behavior is never a guarantee."
Pedestrian injuries range from a fender bump to trauma requiring hospitalization.
Wojcik said that since beginning the pedestrian safety campaign, which consists of plainclothes officers ticketing jaywalkers and drivers who violate crosswalk laws, he has seen a difference in attitudes.
"I see that drivers seem to be changing their behavior more than pedestrians, unfortunately," he said. "Pedestrians do have the overall right of way, but they shouldn't step in the street if it's not clear. They're the one who's going to suffer the most damage."
At a safety forum hosted by HPD and AARP Hawaii at Mission Memorial Auditorium, many of the 60 attendees agreed that drivers are showing more aloha on the road.
Ninety-year-old Jerry Corn says he notices on his daily walks that drivers are more considerate and pedestrians a little more cautious.
Corn was struck by a tour bus two years ago while crossing Punahou Street in a crosswalk at King Street. He said he woke up in a hospital with police officers by his side and was homebound for 12 days.
The state Legislature passed a bill this year that appropriates $3 million for pedestrian-safety initiatives. The money will go toward repainting faded crosswalks, installing traffic countdown timers, replacing signals with brighter lights, lengthening the countdown of some traffic signals to give slower pedestrians more time to cross and broadening public education.
AARP Hawaii Director Barbara Kim Stanton said residents have been paying attention to this issue because of the string of pedestrian deaths early this year.
On Oahu there have been 11 pedestrian fatalities this year, all of them age 59 and older.
"We need to be vigilant about changing the roadways for the safety of our pedestrians," Stanton said.
Here are ways to protect yourself on the streets:
Use the crosswalk: It's a pain, but walk to the nearest crosswalk or cross at street corners.
Make eye contact: Before stepping off the road, get the driver's attention to let them know you're there. Wave if you have to. Also, pay attention to drivers who could be turning into your pathway when the light changes.
Follow pedestrian control signals: Remember, you can get ticketed for beginning to cross when a red signal is flashing or steady.
Look left, right and left again: The golden rule of crossing the street. Look before you step off the curb, but keep looking left and right with every lane you cross.
Use sidewalks: It is unlawful to walk on the road when sidewalks are available. If there are no sidewalks, walk facing traffic.
Wear bright-colored clothes: Your best bets in order, from best to good: reflective, white, yellow and red.
Be cautious of driveways and parking lots: Look for brake and reverse lights. Make sure the driver sees you; if not, you should be the one to stop.