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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, June 2, 2005

Solutions to street dangers offered

By Mike Leidemann
Advertiser Transportation Writer

When it comes to pedestrian safety, Hawai'i residents want it every which way:

• Let's crack down on reckless drivers.

• Let's get tough on jaywalkers.

• Let's think outside the crosswalk.

And they're not shy about fixing blame or demanding dramatic changes, if that's what it takes to fix a pedestrian accident problem that has caused more than 250 deaths and thousands of injuries in the past 10 years.

Among the suggestions:

Manslaughter charges. Traffic cameras. Big fines. More police enforcement. Fewer cars. Four-way walk intersections. No more right turn on red. More police enforcement (again). Community education. Elevated walkways.

And a little more courtesy and consideration all around wouldn't hurt, either.

In general, the suggestions offered by more than 100 Advertiser readers responding to a series of articles on pedestrian accidents fell into three categories: dealing with bad drivers, dealing with bad pedestrians and dealing with both at once.

The Advertiser investigation found that, on average, one or two people are hit by an auto somewhere in Honolulu every day and the number of people killed in such collisions average more than 20 a year statewide.

If there was one common theme in the suggestions, it was the need for police to play a bigger role in enforcing traffic laws.

"Step one: The Honolulu Police Department needs to get serious about enforcing pedestrian right of way," wrote Makiki resident James Bousman. "They do not do it now and they have not been doing it for the past 24 years. Step two: Let's work on step one first."

Many others agreed. Among the comments:

• "Do we ever see the law being enforced? No. Do we ever see, as in other cities, police patrol cars randomly stopped to monitor and enforce this law? No." — Donald Graber.

• "I laughed when I saw that there will be a new law. If memory serves, there's an old law on the books already. How about enforcing that one?" — Steven Talmy.

• "We have the speed limit laws, no U-turn laws, no left-turn laws, to give a few, but how many people break the law and get caught?" — Kenneth Ikenaga.

The Advertiser analysis found that drivers and pedestrians share the responsibility, to some degree, for the continuing carnage on the streets. But many of those offering solutions pointed a finger at the other guy first.

"Anyone who hits a person in a crosswalk should be charged with manslaughter, plain and simple," said McCully resident Marijane Carlos, leading the charge against drivers. Many others thought drivers had to be held most responsible for the accidents:

• "Many motorists feel they own the road and do not give any respect or consideration to other moving traffic, whether they are pedestrians, buses or cyclists." — Doreen Akamine.

• "It's the drivers. I have been flabbergasted by how many cars go through red lights." — Christian Treber.

• "If cars, trucks and buses do not stop for red lights, what makes you think it will stop for pedestrians at a crosswalk? — John Sarich

An almost equal number of residents, though, found that pedestrians have to accept some of the blame.

"I feel 90 percent of these accidents can be avoided by pedestrians being observant, patient and alert, even when they're crossing legally," said Stan Lum. "The roads are for cars; encroach at your own risk."

Others voiced similar sentiments.

• "I'd place the majority of blame on pedestrians. I see numerous pedestrians jaywalking, dodging oncoming cars, charging out into an intersection, etc." — Jane Lee.

• "What about pedestrians who ignore the 'don't walk' signal and force the driver to wait and run a red light. Pedestrians need to respect drivers, too." — Joe Corbett.

• "I drive for a living and what I have noticed is a lot of adults will step out into the road when cars are going 25 to 30 mph. We expect kids to do these things, yet most times it's the adults who play chicken like this." — Tracy Clinger

And finally there were those who thought a little outside the crosswalk lines.

"I propose the elimination of almost all crosswalks by replacing them with a one-level-above-street-level walkway system that would be integrated into a light rail elevated mass transit system," said Punchbowl resident Scott Tolbert.

Among the other suggestions:

• "Less cars, of course. Cars are doing the damage. Take them out of the situation and the problem goes away pretty quickly. We should restrict all cars from streets in the Central Business District, save for those that absolutely need to be there." — Justin Hahn.

• "Rescind the right turn on red law." — Bill and Mary Kendall.

• "There should be a light change so all cars get a red light. During that time, all pedestrians can cross in any direction, including diagonally." — Lahapa Ichimura.

• "Install stop lights and speed bumps at all crosswalks. Put up or shut up." — Richard Lee.

• "Show films about driver/pedestrian safety on all flights bound for Hawai'i." — J.A. Bowman.

• "Hire more people like meter-readers to watch the busiest intersections." — Helen Eschenbacher.

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