By Loren Moreno
Advertiser Staff Writer
Seventy-five-year-old Yoshiko Arakaki was walking out of the Mo'ili'ili branch of First Hawaiian Bank when she was handed a flier by Lt. Gov. James Aiona urging her to "walk wise."
"I'm careful, you know. But a lot of people aren't," said Arakaki, who rides the bus from Makiki to Mo'ili'ili at least three times a week.
About 30 volunteers, police officers, firefighters, paramedics and lawmakers canvassed King Street between Ke'eaumoku Street and University Avenue yesterday distributing fliers to pedestrians and local businesses as a part of the Walk Wise Hawai'i campaign. The campaign began last week with a mass mailing to King Street businesses and residents.
Part of the impetus behind the campaign is a stricter crosswalk law that took effect in May. Enforcement began Thursday and has been accompanied by confusion among drivers and pedestrians.
For a state that ranks fourth in the nation for pedestrian deaths per capita, Honolulu Police Department Capt. Jose Gaytan said he wants people to realize that it will take extra caution by both drivers and pedestrians to keep the number from rising.
The street that received the extra attention yesterday is among the accident hot spots.
"Data shows there have been a high number of pedestrian accidents in this area — the King Street corridor," said Scott Ishikawa, state Department of Transportation spokesman.
According to DOT, there have been 25 pedestrian fatalities statewide this year, 11 of which were people 65 years or older. Nearly 40 percent of pedestrian fatalities from 1999 to 2004 were people ages 70 and over, according to DOT.
While the canvassing initiative targeted elderly pedestrians, it also pinpointed drivers confused by the new crosswalk law.
Transportation director Rod Haraga clarified the law yesterday at a press conference at Mo'ili'ili Triangle Park: "Drivers must stop for pedestrians in crosswalks when the pedestrian is on their half of the road or when the pedestrian is in immediate danger."
That message was echoed in fliers handed out to Mo'ili'ili residents and area businesses.
Gaytan was one of about a half-dozen police officers who joined in the canvassing.
"I want to point out to drivers how vulnerable pedestrians are," Gaytan said. "Campaigns like this do help."
Joey Acoba, 29, of Mo'ili'ili, joined yesterday's effort because she has noticed the need for pedestrian education in the area. She said she noticed a lot of jaywalking, especially by elderly residents trying to get to Star Market near University Avenue.
"A lot of times I see them trying to make it across and cars will keep coming," she said. Acoba said the problem stretches beyond her neighborhood. "It's throughout King Street that it happens — no one stops for them," she said.
In addition to yesterday's canvassing, a television public service announcement featuring a young girl remembering her grandmother who was hit by a car continues to air on all major networks and cable stations, according to Ishikawa.
Radio and television commercials to educate the public on the crosswalk law are expected to air in the next couple months.
Reach Loren Moreno at firstname.lastname@example.org.