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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, January 4, 2005

Lingle's traffic safety package augurs well

Gov. Linda Lingle has proposed a solid package of traffic safety initiatives for the upcoming legislative session.

Quite apart from saving lives, we take it as a good sign that two of her five measures were previously proposed by Democratic lawmakers. Together with some significant adjustments Lingle has made in her positions on education recently, this gesture raises hopes for a constructive spirit of bipartisanship this session.

Lingle proposes a law requiring drivers to stop when a person steps into the crosswalk to cross the street, even if the pedestrian is on the opposite side of the street from the car. The only exception would be when the street is divided by a median.

Drivers already are required to yield to pedestrians in a crosswalk, but this law appears to be more honored in the breach than the observance.

But the problem is broader than drivers' disrespect for zebra stripes. A crosswalk offers little safety to a pedestrian when drivers are zipping through it at excessive speeds and against red lights.

The ultimate key to compliance leading to a reduction in pedestrian deaths and injuries is earnest and consistent enforcement by police.

Other measures include:

• An attractive three-step driver's licensing program for those under 18.

• A tougher penalty for speeding 25 mph or more over the speed limit or over 80 mph.

• An intriguing, although potentially problematic, crackdown on underage drinking that should grab the attention of the intended audience. Those underage drinkers caught with alcohol, even if they're nowhere near a car, would see their driver's license suspended for 90 days.

A final proposal makes us wonder what we've been missing. It would make it illegal to use traffic control devices that can be used to change traffic signals from red to green.

It's comforting to know that emergency vehicles, ambulances for instance, can use these devices to make their way through intersections. But that other motorists may be using bootleg copies of this equipment for their own selfish ends is disturbing.

These five measures may require some tweaking in the end. But because they're essentially sensible, we hope to see lawmakers process them in a sensible manner.