DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM
State transportation officials yesterday launched a pedestrian safety program that targets schoolchildren at Kalihi-Kai School. After introductory speeches by the officials, the four fifth-graders who were present were immediately interviewed by newspaper and TV reporters about the program. Ten-year-olds Nikki Nguyen, left, and Shannelle Impelido were a little embarrassed by all of the attention. They are next to Peter Tovey, one of Kalihi-Kai's vice principals.
DVD lights the way in pedestrian safety
Like a 21st-century McGruff the Crime Dog, humanoid robot ASIMO struck a chord with students including fifth-grader Nikki Nguyen.
CROSSING TIPS FOR CHILDREN
» Young children often cannot judge the speed, distance and size of oncoming vehicles. Teach them that it is best to allow an oncoming vehicle to pass, then wait for a new green light or walk signal.
» The walk signal means that children should stop at the curb or edge of the road, look both ways and then cross the street. Having the walk signal on does not guarantee that cars will stop.
» When looking left and right, make sure to look for turning vehicles, too.
» If children are in the middle of the street and the don't-walk signal flashes, they should not stop or return to the curb or edge of the road. They should continue to walk until they reach the other side. Tell them not to run because they might fall.
» Children crossing the street should be accompanied by an adult whenever possible.
Source: U.S. Department of Transportation
"It was funny when the robot appeared and it kept talking about itself and everyone walked away," the Kalihi-Kai School student said of a DVD starring the robot.
"Step to Safety with ASIMO" is the centerpiece of the latest phase of the state Department of Transportation's Walk Wise Hawaii program. The campaign, aimed at elementary school-age children, will distribute a 14-minute DVD from the National Safety Council.
ASIMO is a Honda-developed robot that has been used for various purposes, from TV shows to greeting royalty and dignitaries.
The campaign was launched yesterday at Kalihi-Kai School, particularly because the area is known for many pedestrian accidents.
From 2000 to 2004 there were 11 pedestrian accidents in the Kalihi area involving children ages 4 through 12 during school hours, said police Maj. Susan Dowsett, head of the Honolulu Police Department's traffic safety division.
Dowsett said the Kalihi area had 114 pedestrian accidents last year.
"It really had quite a lot for a smaller area," Dowsett said. "For school-related accidents involving pedestrians, Kalihi is high, as well as the Waianae area."
Of the 118 elementary schools on Oahu, 76 are participating in the program.
Ronnie Gallardo, a vice principal at Kalihi-Kai, said there have been some close calls with drivers nearly hitting students.
"A lot of drivers don't pay attention to the stop signs," she said. "It's hard to see in this area, too, with all of the cars and buildings here."
Walk Wise Hawaii was launched with the initial goal of reaching senior pedestrians but has been expanded to reach all age groups. It is a partnership with the city Department of Transportation Services and county police departments.
State transportation Deputy Director Brennon Morioka said the agency will distribute the ASIMO DVD to the neighbor islands as well if the program is successful.