Speed limit could rise
without risking safety


A new study shows that states that raised their speed limits to 70 mph or more saw a large increase in traffic deaths.

HAWAII is the slowest state in the country in driving from one place to another while obeying speed limits. State officials practiced restraint -- probably more than was necessary -- after the federal speed limit of 55 mph was lifted in 1995. Other states hiked their speed limits to as much as 75 mph and are paying for the higher speeds with increased traffic fatality rates. A new study by an auto safety group warns against speed limits to which Hawaii doesn't come close.

The Cayetano administration raised Hawaii's limit to 60 mph last year on stretches of the H-1 freeway between the Kapolei and Kunia interchanges and on H-3 from the Halawa Interchange to the Koolau tunnels. The action came after studies showed that 85 percent of Hawaii drivers exceed the speed limit. It remains 55 mph elsewhere on rural stretches of the freeways.

That tweaking was mild compared with what other states have done, and the death toll deserves notice. In every state except Hawaii, the speed limits range from 65 to 75 mph on rural interstates and from 55 to 75 mph on urban interstates. Hawaii's limit on urban interstates remains at 50 mph.

The 10 Midwestern and Western states that raised their limits to 75 mph had 38 percent more traffic fatalities per million miles driven -- about 780 more deaths -- than states with 65-mph limits, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. The dozen states that raised their limits to 70 mph had a 35 percent increase in deaths, about 1,100.

Raising the speed limit does not keep drivers from exceeding it. In Colorado, where the limit is now 75 mph, one in four drivers was clocked going faster than 80 mph. In California, where the limit is also 75, one in five drivers was clocked at 80 mph or faster. On one urban interstate in Atlanta where the speed limit was 55 mph, the mean speed was 75, and 78 percent exceeded 70 mph.

"Drivers tend to choose speeds they perceive as unlikely to result in a ticket," says Richard Retting, the institute's senior transportation engineer.

Federal highway data shows that the national fatality rate actually fell from 1.69 deaths per million miles driven to 1.55 deaths, but that can be attributed to cars being made safer at faster speeds.


Don’t forget the real
reason for the season


Holiday shopping leads to a frenzy after Thanksgiving as consumers hunt for bargains and retailers seem bullish on sales.

THE ANNUAL rite of Christmas has become an extraordinary frenzy of the day after Thanksgiving. It's when shoppers lurk sleepily in the doorways and parking lots in the pre-dawn darkness, then rouse themselves as stores open to pounce in wild abandon in hopes of capturing bargains and sale-priced goods.

The post-Thanksgiving sales seem to draw shoppers earlier and earlier every year with some arriving the morning before when ordinarily families would be rolling out the dough for pumpkin pie or heating the oven to roast a turkey for the evening meal. Parking lots become competitive arenas with drivers vying for space closest to the shops so as to lessen the hassles of lugging bags full of toys, DVDs and bicycles to their cars.

Retailers bank on consumer spending during the holiday season to bring in the bulk of their annual revenues and this year they hope cash registers will burn their numbers for profit. Their viability depends on shoppers having the confidence that the economy is healthy and will support their cash and credit lay outs on gifts. This year, with the state's outlook rosy for the first time since 9/11 and with unemployment dropping, store owners hope these translate in to brisk sales, which the National Retail Federation predicts will grow 5.7 percent over last year's.

Merchants see consumer spending on the day after Thanksgiving -- dubbed Black Friday because it is when retailers hope sales push them into the black of profitability -- as a bellwether for the holiday, However, in this madness, people seem to lose sight of what the Christmas means and should keep their perspective on the reason for the season.

While Hawaii's cultural traditions may counter the aggressiveness of other places like Los Angeles, where shoppers reported elbowing, shoving and grabbing at stores where prices had been cut steeply, rude behavior is by no means unheard of here.

Courtesy and civility should be maintained despite the crowds and jostling for the last Bratz or Barbie doll on the shelf. Giving way to others in the aisles and parking lots at the malls reflects a sense of sharing that is a large part of Christmas. Cooler heads should prevail as shopping heats up through the weeks before the holiday.

Remember, 'tis the season to be merry, not mean.



Oahu Publications, Inc. publishes the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, MidWeek and military newspapers

David Black, Dan Case, Larry Johnson,
Duane Kurisu, Warren Luke, Colbert
Matsumoto, Jeffrey Watanabe,
Frank Teskey, Publisher

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