Talk Story


Tuesday, January 29, 2002

Chill out, Parnelli;
traffic cams just might
be good for you

MOTORING home through Waimanalo and around Makapuu Sunday evening from Kailua to Hawaii Kai, I was looking forward to the 45 mph stretch between Eve Anderson's place -- the waterfront house featured in the Magnum P.I. series -- and Sea Life Park.

Unfortunately, the gray Honda Accord in front of me was happy to putt along at 35 all the way from Waimanalo Beach Park to the Kalama Valley traffic light.

Bummer. With no opportunity to pass, those infamous traffic-camera guys would have caught me red-handed -- doing 10 miles under the limit.

Then again, the overcast was breaking up and an almost-full moon peeked through. The moonlight danced on the ocean, the Makapuu lighthouse was pulsing a signal to ships at sea and one won't-quit bodysurfer was silhouetted against the shore break.

And I was driving slowly enough to take it all in.

Some Windward drivers think they are being unfairly targeted by the photo enforcement system. This truck was a blur as it passed a speed limit sign on the Pali Highway.

ONE day, when I was in kindergarten at Holy Family School in Springfield, Mass., a 5-year-old bully attacked me in the schoolyard.

I was merely defending myself when the fracas caught the attention of the nun watching out for us, but she didn't send the bully to Mother Superior's office. No, just like the football player who gets the penalty flag for throwing the second punch, I got the blame.

The big jerk who jumped me got away with it. I had to squirm through a scolding and hold my hands out for a fearsome-looking, tough old lady to slap them with a ruler. Speechless and unable to make my case, I was outraged by the injustice.

Can the drivers bombing down the Pali Highway into town at 70 mph say the same?

ALL this whining about Windward drivers being singled out by the traffic cameras, about how it's impossible to drive the speed limit downhill, about the dangers of having to check the speedometer all the time -- give me a break!

Zero tolerance for speeders is not like a racial hiring quota. Yes, police have let drivers zip along at five or 10 miles over the limit. Does that make it legal? Do people really expect the officials sworn to enforce the law to say it's OK to break it?

No. So, grow up already.

Now, members of the Legislature, which authorized the traffic cameras, are complaining. Sen. Bob Hogue of Kaneohe, Maunawili and Enchanted Lake, has formally requested "that the Department of Transportation immediately remove the photo enforcement vans from the Pali and Likelike Highways.

"Two of the four photo enforcement vans are often on these Windward travel routes. This disproportionately targets Windward residents compared to the entire Oahu driving population," Hogue said.

"Windward residents spend an enormous amount of time in their vehicles, commuting back and forth to Honolulu. It's not fair for Windward residents to bear the brunt of this project."

Depending on where you live, this might be persuasive, but it's not logical.

THEN there's Rep. Willie Espero of Ewa Beach and Waipahu, vice-chairman of the House Transportation Committee, who says, "Treat the (photo van) citation like a parking ticket and not a moving violation unless the driver is going over 25 mph over the posted speed limit.

"Do not give citations on a significant downward slope.

"No zero-tolerance policy."

So, Windward drivers should get a free pass to drive over the speed limit, unless they get caught doing, for example, 70 in a 45 zone -- in which case they should get a parking-ticket fine.

Whoops, but if they were driving downhill they get out of jail free.

"Several legislators have already written to the state Department of Transportation to request that it terminate the program, or restrict it to school areas only," writes Rep. Joe Gomes of Waimanalo, Keolu Hills and Lanikai. "Also, many of us have signed or will support legislation to abolish the program entirely.

"I was not in office when the Legislature authorized this program," he assures us.

Honest officer, I wasn't driving. We were all in the back seat.

Want your buttons pushed? Read this letter from a tourist: "I'm a visitor that returns year after year. I was here six weeks last year and I am staying nine weeks this year. I'll spend more than $10,000 during our stay.

"Your speed limits are already too slow and now you enforce them with cameras. Why don't you just tell us to stay home?"

Stay home, Jesse James.

John Flanagan is the Star-Bulletin's contributing editor.
He can be reached at:

E-mail to Editorial Editor

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