Hawai'i drivers admit to dangerous habits
By Mike Leidemann
Advertiser Staff Writer
A surprising number of Hawai'i drivers admit they drive too fast, run yellow lights and use their cell phones while behind the wheel, according to a new University of Hawai'i survey.
Take the survey
The results and suggestions are contained in an ongoing, scientific survey of more than 1,500 students, faculty and staff at UH who were asked their opinions about traffic signals and traffic conditions in general.
Among the results:
- More than 38 percent said they often or always drive at least 10 mph over the speed limit.
- More than 27 percent said they often or always drive through yellow lights.
- More than 23 percent said they often or always answer cell phone calls while driving.
"Oh, yeah, I do all of those things sometimes," said Tiffany Le, a McKinley High senior. "I know I shouldn't but sometimes you just do them anyway. It's unsafe and breaking the rules, but sometimes it's like a habit that you can't stop."
The survey was conducted via e-mail, and the respondents skewed heavily young. More than half of those who took time to fill out the survey were under 30 years old. Even so, the results offer a glimpse into the behavior of many Hawai'i drivers, said Panos Prevedouros, a UH engineering professor who planned the survey with several graduate students.
Motorists' top 10 complaints/suggestions about driving in Hawai'i, in order of frequency: 1. Ban the use of handheld cell phones while driving. 2. Motorists do not respect pedestrians in crosswalks. 3. Hawai'i's driving test is too easy. Too many unskilled drivers on the road. 4. Allow hands-free cell phones because using them is like talking to a passenger in the car. 5. Drivers should use turn signals. 6. Add bike lanes. 7. Remove bike lanes. 8. Access to the Lunalilo on-ramp is terrible and drivers who cut in line are terrible, too. 9. Improve pavement quality; no potholes! 10. Speed limits are too low.
Drivers' pet peeves
Motorists' top 10 complaints/suggestions about driving in Hawai'i, in order of frequency:
1. Ban the use of handheld cell phones while driving.
2. Motorists do not respect pedestrians in crosswalks.
3. Hawai'i's driving test is too easy. Too many unskilled drivers on the road.
4. Allow hands-free cell phones because using them is like talking to a passenger in the car.
5. Drivers should use turn signals.
6. Add bike lanes.
7. Remove bike lanes.
8. Access to the Lunalilo on-ramp is terrible and drivers who cut in line are terrible, too.
9. Improve pavement quality; no potholes!
10. Speed limits are too low.
The survey is the first of its kind to focus on concerns about traffic-light operations in the state.
Respondents listed the synchronization of traffic signals, reducing waiting time, red-light running, cars blocking intersections and poorly marked crosswalks among their top concerns. Perhaps because their responses were anonymous, they didn't mince any words:
"The main problem is traffic signals that are not responsive to traffic volumes. Really gets your blood pressure up."
"There are so many places in town where drivers sit and wait an eternity at an empty intersection. A little less paternalistic protection and more efficiency would be appreciated by many of us."
"Vineyard (Boulevard) is a disaster."
When it comes to driving behavior in general, the survey respondents were, if anything, even more stinging in their criticism, which was no surprise to Minnesota retiree Charlotte Giebler, who has been visiting Hawai'i regularly since the late 1970s.
"I think drivers are getting worse here," Giebler said yesterday while eating lunch at Kahala Mall. "The drivers were so much nicer years ago. I really notice the difference. Now, they're always in a hurry and can't be bothered to slow down."
Many survey respondents complained about cell-phone use while driving, a lack of respect for pedestrians and the number of unskilled drivers on the road.
- "There should be guns that are automatically fired upon people who run red lights. One such person did so and took the life of my mom. I will never forgive that person."
- "Keeping pace with traffic at 70 mph is not a traffic violation in my opinion."
- "Hawai'i drivers, in general are very poor drivers. They do not yield readily out of the fast lane. They have no idea how to merge and they are not capable of driving correctly in the rain."
- "If I had $1 for every car I have seen run a solid red light, I could retire right now."
- "I find myself 'keeping up with traffic' (speeding) and running yellow lights. It seems like everybody does it and there is no enforcement. The reality is, if it's not enforced, it's not illegal. Even the police, bus drivers, city and state workers do it."
Reach Mike Leidemann at 525-5460 or email@example.com.
Correction: The University of Hawai'i survey on traffic attitudes was scientifically conducted using randomly selected students, faculty and staff who were contacted by e-mail. A previous version of this story contained other information.