Drivers ticketed at Pali crossing
NU'UANU — Police officers were out in force yesterday morning at Pali Highway and Dowsett Avenue, primarily ticketing drivers who failed to exercise due care in the presence of pedestrians.
The "pedestrians" in this case were police officers assigned to HPD's Traffic Division. They wore civilian plainclothes and took turns venturing across the six-lane highway in a marked crosswalk at an intersection where there is no stoplight.
It is the same intersection where Hideno Matsumoto, 81, of Nu'uanu, was fatally injured Jan. 12 while trying to cross the busy thoroughfare .
"We try to do this once or twice a month," said Capt. Keith Lima of HPD's Traffic Division . "We had four pedestrian fatalities (on O'ahu) last month alone. That's four too many."
As Lima kept a watchful eye on the undercover operation from a church parking lot, the plainclothes officers would wait for an opening, step out into the crosswalk and head for the other side.
"Most people abide by the law; unfortunately, some people don't," Lima said as he monitored the scene.
The enforcement program began at 9:30 a.m. and by the time it ended two hours later, police had issued 45 citations.
Thirty-two were for failure to exercise due care to a pedestrian, seven for speeding, three for using a cell phone while driving, one for failing to wear a seatbelt and two for miscellaneous reasons.
The decoy pedestrians used hand-held radios to notify police officers on motorcycles whenever an offending driver failed to stop for them.
The "solo bike" officers were stationed on both sides of the highway, mauka- and makai-bound, and would swoop down on drivers who failed to yield to pedestrians. They also handed out tickets for other infractions such as speeding, failure to use seat belts and cell phone use.
In one of the morning's more notable incidents, a Kailua-bound driver saw the pedestrian at the last minute, but stepped hard on the brake pedal to avoid entering the crosswalk. A second driver who was following close behind the first had to lock up his brakes to avoid rear-ending the car in front of him. The second car skidded to a stop, tires screeching , just inches from the car in front.
In another close call, a middle-age driver in the town-bound lanes rolled up on a woman undercover officer just as he lifted a bottle of water to his lips and tilted his head back to take a big gulp, his eyes tilted upward momentarily at the car's ceiling. The white Taurus passed about four feet behind the officer, who let out a yell and signaled to the motorcycle officers, one of whom pulled the driver over about four blocks farther down the hill.
"Some drivers are just totally preoccupied," said Lt. Gordon Shiraishi, shaking his head.
He said O'ahu drivers seem to be getting the point that they need to be on the lookout for pedestrians, especially when approaching crosswalks.
"A lot of this is about education — education through communication," Shiraishi said.
Just as yesterday's enforcement program was drawing to a close, Anne Marie Baker and her two children crossed the highway without problem.
"We've crossed here probably three times since September," Baker said. "We haven't had any close calls, we're always very cautious.
"We don't cross until we see that all the cars have stopped," Baker said, son Tristan, 12, and daughter Isabella, 10, nodding in agreement.
Police continue to urge pedestrians to use good judgment and to be responsible for their own safety when crossing streets, even if in a crosswalk.