Wednesday, February 7, 2001
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Posted on: Wednesday, February 7, 2001

New pedestrian safety bills make good sense

One would think that common sense — not laws — would be enough to protect pedestrians on our busy streets and highways.

But clearly, a recent rash of fatal incidents involving pedestrians suggests it is not. The Legislature has responded by proposing tough new rules for pedestrians and drivers alike.

They deserve swift approval.

The proposed law on jaywalking would increase the fine from today’s $55 to as much as $750, depending on the severity of the offense. If enforcement is adequate, that should be enough to keep people from casually taking a dangerous shortcut.

The proposed law for drivers also increases the fine to as much as $750, but it does more than that. It changes the underlying concept of the driver’s responsibility.

Today, drivers are supposed to "yield" to pedestrians in a crosswalk. Too often, that is interpreted as stopping only when there is no way of getting past the person on foot.

The new proposal flatly requires a driver to stop for pedestrians at intersections and crosswalks. No ambiguity. That makes sense.

For the sake of drivers on Honolulu’s increasingly clogged streets, we can only hope the new law makes sense and brings some sanity to the competition between cars and people. Because to date, the quick answer to any pedestrian accident has been to put another protective stoplight in place. Eventually, it will become impossible to get from here to there; all intersections will have their own safety stoplight.

Ideally, the tough new sanctions will make drivers and pedestrians alike think more clearly. It might even lead to more courtesy and common sense, which are ultimately the greatest protection of all.

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