Police out
in force for
safety law

Crossing with the traffic light and in a crosswalk aren't enough.

That's what Lori Richardson found out yesterday when she got a $70 jaywalking citation for crossing South King Street at the intersection with Nuuanu Avenue against the pedestrian traffic signal, which she says is broken.

The Nature Conservancy employee is one of dozens of residents islandwide who were issued jaywalking citations yesterday on the first day of a stepped-up police pedestrian safety campaign that is targeting both drivers and walkers. Motorists receive $97 citations if they fail to obey a new pedestrian safety law.

"We've been using our traffic division as well as beat officers," said police spokesman Capt. Frank Fujii. "I think they've been pretty busy."

From Kapahulu to Kalihi yesterday, motorcycle police officers were posted at several busy intersections. They had a large presence especially in downtown Honolulu and near Chinatown.

Fujii could not provide a tally on how many citations had been issued, but traffic police said the number was likely higher than 50 to pedestrians and motorists.

The campaign started last month, but police had issued only warnings, mostly to motorists to educate them about a new state law that says drivers must stop and yield to pedestrians who are in their half of the roadway or approaching "so closely from the opposite half of the roadway as to be a danger."

The crackdown is expected to last until Sept. 23. After that, police say they will continue to enforce the crosswalk and jaywalking laws, but with fewer officers patrolling the streets.

Since 2001, 106 pedestrians have died on Oahu roads. Most were seniors, according to police statistics.

Also, Hawaii ranked fourth in the nation in 2004 for its pedestrian fatality rate: 2.65 deaths per 100,000 people. The national average was 1.67, according to the National Center for Statistics and Analysis.

Richardson, who plans to dispute her jaywalking citation, is actually happy about the police crackdown. She says anything that will reduce pedestrian accidents is a good idea.

"I completely respect what they're trying to do," she said, adding that more needs to be done to make intersections safer and walkways more pedestrian-friendly.

She also said the city has a responsibility to make sure pedestrian traffic signals "are in working order."

Fujii said walkers who are cited for jaywalking because of a faulty pedestrian traffic signal should plead not guilty. They can also report the faulty signal to the city's maintenance division at 564-6101.

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