Vigil mourns pedestrians as it promotes safety
A solemn ceremony caps an AARP event that also keeps the focus on traffic risks
Sammye Love held a candle in memory of her best friend of 27 years at a candlelight vigil last night for pedestrians killed in traffic accidents in Hawaii.
Love's friend Jeanine Reed, 66, died February after a sport utility vehicle struck her in a Beretania Street crosswalk.
"I don't want her life to be forgotten," Love said at the vigil on the footsteps of Kawaiahao Church. "I wouldn't want this to happen to anybody else."
Love was one of dozens attending the vigil, the closing ceremony for AARP Hawaii's annual Day of Service.
Earlier in the day, about 170 people gathered at 18 crosswalks across the state, helping people cross the street, handing out pedestrian safety information, and holding pedestrian awareness signs.
While the vigil was meant to remember the pedestrians who lost their lives when hit by motor vehicles, it was also a celebration of accomplishments in improving pedestrian safety.
Hawaii is the most dangerous state for pedestrians older than 65, according to AARP Hawaii. Eleven pedestrians have died on Oahu this year, all older than 59.
Hawaii legislators passed a pedestrian safety bill this session that provides more than $4 million for improvements to crosswalks and roadways, with funding coming from the state government and the counties. The legislation would make it safer for pedestrians by lengthening crosswalk crossing times to allow older people more time to cross and by installing countdown timers at crossing signals.
Sen. Rosalyn Baker (D, South and West Maui), a sponsor of the bill, said AARP helped to get the bill passed by getting it back on track when it was bogged down by discussions of including cameras at traffic lights. She said AARP's statewide study of the state's 50 busiest intersections also helped focus the bill and is a source of data on where to place countdown timers.
Therese Argoud, of the state Department of Health, agreed.
"They have the leadership and really it took upon themselves," said Argoud, the Health Department's Walkable Communities coordinator. The Health Department and AARP have partnered on several projects to promote pedestrian safety.
"They've provided the lead in bringing pedestrian safety to the forefront of the public attention and holding it there," Argoud said.
Honolulu police Lt. Jerry Wojcik worked with AARP members as head of the Police Department's pedestrian safety campaign. He complimented their enthusiasm and persistence in the issue.
The police program's goal is to change people's behavior and make people aware, he said, adding, "they are making people more aware than we could ever have hoped."
Barbara Kim Stanton, director of AARP Hawaii, said Thursday the efforts started two years ago with about 40 volunteers doing a simple survey of sidewalks in Honolulu.
"This is beyond our wildest expectations," she said.