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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Traffic summit to focus on safety issues

By Mike Leidemann
Advertiser Transportation Writer

A summit on traffic safety in Honolulu next week will take up a smorgasbord of ideas to reduce speeding and accidents, organizers say.

Tuesday's all-day meeting will address issues including traffic calming, racing, alcohol and drug use, pedestrian safety, traffic-signal timing and even photo enforcement, said Nestor Garcia, chairman of the City Council's Transportation Committee.

Garcia said the summit was organized in response to escalating highway fatalities on O'ahu.

"The idea for a summit came out of hearings we held earlier this year after several highway deaths," he said. "It's a continuation of the discussions we had then with people who felt that something has to be done."

Garcia said government, police, business and community officials, as well as private driving instructors, have been invited to discuss solutions to the problem.

Last year, there were 135 traffic-related fatalities in Hawai'i, a 13 percent increase over 2002.

Three more traffic fatalities this week added a sense of renewed urgency to the discussions. The latest victim, a 58-year-old police officer killed in a single-car accident on the H-2 freeway Monday night, brings the number of people killed on O'ahu roads this year to 44.

Garcia said the goal of the summit is not necessarily new laws.

"Maybe, it's tweaking the driver's education curriculum, or maybe it's changing the timing of red lights at intersections," he said. "You don't have to solve everything with more laws."

State Transportation Director Rod Haraga said the summit will offer officials a chance to have informal, honest discussions about the best ways to improve safety.

"In the end, it comes down to education and enforcement," Haraga said. "We've been tracking where the accidents occur, and they're happening all over. People have to start taking responsibility for how they drive."

The conference is scheduled from 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Tuesday in the Pikake Room at the Neal Blaisdell Center. To register, or for more information, call Garcia's office at 547-7009.

Reach Mike Leidemann at 525-5460 or mleidemann@honoluluadvertiser.com.