Police educate pedestrians in Chinatown
Honolulu police officers were out in force this morning in the Chinatown area of downtown Honolulu hoping to educate pedestrians on how to stay safe when crossing some of the island’s busiest thoroughfares — with good reason.
So far this year, five pedestrians have been killed on Oahu compared with 10 during all of last year.
The 10 deaths in 2009 were actually a low point in terms of pedestrian fatalities over the past five years, said police Maj. Thomas Nitta, who heads the Honolulu Police Department’s Traffic Division.
There were 28 pedestrian fatalities in 2005, 20 in both 2006 and ’07 and 14 in 2008, Nitta said.
Officials were hoping the downward trend would continue this year, but it has gotten off to an ominous start.
“The emphasis today is education — we’re letting pedestrians know it’s up to them as well as drivers to stay safe,” Nitta said.
As in prior traffic enforcement exercises, uniformed police officers on motorcycles were also present to hand out tickets for a myriad of violations, including failure to exercise due care when near pedestrians, use of cell phones while driving, failure to wear seat belts and even parking in load zones with out a permit.
“The merchants down here tell us parking is a major issue,” Nitta said.
Police, however, were not ticketing jaywalkers, but may return to the area to do so if the education effort wears thin anytime soon.
Approximately 35 police officers handed out eight-panel brochures containing safety tips in seven different languages — English, Chinese, Filipino, Japanese, Korean, Samoan and Vietnamese.
An insert in the brochure explained the various symbols that appear at signalized intersections, while the flip side contained a sketch of a foot with a morgue tag attached to the big toe. The words “Don’t Get Tagged” were written in large bold type across the top of the sketch.
“We do these kinds of education programs all the time — we did about 100 presentations last year alone,” Nitta said. “Whenever we do them, we always get a very positive response. The merchants tell us, ‘This shows you guys are really part of the community.’”
The intersection of King and Kekaulike streets was packed with pedestrians at midday and many of them were handed the safety brochures after crossing the street.
Oresca Hunka, a canola and wheat farmer from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, applauded the police effort to increase pedestrian safety awareness.
“It’s a big issue back home in Edmonton, too,” Hunka said. “Just last month, a fellow riding on a scooter was run over and killed by a drunk driver.”
Serlino Harper stood by a fruit stand, studying the explanation of the signal light pedestrian signals.
“Look at the light and never jaywalk,” Harper said, looking at the brochure.
Thanh Nguyen, a Liliha resident, stood nearby, reviewing the safety tips.
“Oh, it’s very dangerous,” Nguyen said, nodding toward the traffic on King Street.
Larry Sweets, a Kaimuki resident who works at Palama Settlement, said the safety brochures could be helpful “if people read them and pay attention to them.”
Palama Settlement has held several programs, primarily for senior citizens, “helping them learn safer ways” when crossing Oahu streets, Sweets said.