By Walter Wright
Advertiser Staff Writer
Advanced age, dark clothing and visibility problems seem to be common factors in Honolulus recent series of pedestrian fatalities, a police expert on traffic accidents said yesterday.
Traffic Capt. Bryan Waukes comments came as community leaders called for more education of pedestrians and drivers alike to end the tragedies that took the lives of four Oahu pedestrians in a single week.
Eusebio Rarallo, 88, who died Tuesday, after being hit at 4:50 p.m. in a crosswalk by a city bus making a left turn onto Paiwa Street from Hiapo Street in Waipahu.
Mauricio Cabe, 85, of Kaneohe, who was hit by a van while walking outside of a crosswalk on Kamehameha Highway in Kaneohe in the darkness at 5:58 a.m. Tuesday.
Benjamin Capania, 79, of Kalihi, who was injured Friday at North Nimitz Highway and Mokauea Street at 8:58 a.m. when hit by a shuttle bus as he tried to cross Nimitz. He died Saturday.
Chang Shee Pang, 94, of Kalihi, who died after she was struck by a car in the darkness at 6:12 a.m Dec. 26 as she tried to cross Aala Street 11 feet outside the crosswalk near Aala Place.
Many of the same factors applied to some 16 senior citizens who were killed in pedestrian accidents last year, representing fully two-thirds of the total, police said.
Many were wearing clothing that either was dark or blended with the environment; others could not be seen in the glare of the sun; and others died in darkness before dawn or after dusk, Wauke said.
Driver inattention has been a factor as well, the captain said.
Not just in Kalihi
Although trouble spots such as the Pali Highway, King Street and Farrington Highway get much attention, fatal pedestrian accidents happen in many areas.
"Its not just here in Kalihi," said May Akamine of the Kalihi Palama Health Center, near the spot where a 68-year-old man was killed Nov. 24. "Its all over, in Waipahu, Kaneohe, the Leeward side.
"I dont know if there is added stress on people, not being attuned to the environment or not watching, and the drivers not being careful," said Akamine.
Akamine said her staff is working with police officer Mel Andres to set up community meetings on pedestrian safety.
The 24 pedestrian fatalities last year, while a sharp increase from 14 and 11 in the two preceding years, may be close to a "normal" rate for Oahu, Wauke said yesterday.
The previous years recorded 18, 26, 24 and 23 pedestrian fatalities respectively, the police captain said. "It is still too high, but 24 may be the normal pattern."
A national study suggests that Honolulu may be safer for pedestrians than most other major metropolitan areas in the nation.
The Surface Transportation Policy Project, an environmental group based in Washington, did not include any cities in Hawaii in its 50 most dangerous metropolitan areas for pedestrians. Four of the five most dangerous areas were in Florida in 1997 and 1998.
The findings were based on the statistics on the number of people who walk to work. That was compared with the number of pedestrian fatalities, according to the study.
The state Department of Transportation has teamed up with local law enforcement and transportation officials to launch an educational campaign this year, and the state office also plans to propose legislation aimed at reducing pedestrian fatalities.
City Transportation Director Cheryl Soon has met with concerned citizens, most recently in the Kalihi-Palama area.
Soon said remedies for the problem will come from the "three Es": education, engineering and enforcement. But no one of the "Es" will do the job alone, she said.
Police said the fact that many of Honolulus pedestrian fatalities are senior citizens doesnt mean younger people are not at risk. "There are a lot of pedestrian collisions that involve younger children," Wauke said, "but they are more resilient and their survival rate is higher."
According to figures the state Department of Health obtained from the Emergency Medical Service, which sends ambulance to accident scenes, more than 1,200 Oahu children ages 1 to 17 were involved in pedestrian accidents during the years 1995-1997.
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