HPD walks Chinatown to stress pedestrian safety
Honolulu police officers were out in force yesterday in the Chinatown area hoping to educate pedestrians on staying safe when crossing some of the island's busiest thoroughfares — with good reason.
Five pedestrians have been killed on O'ahu so far this year compared with 10 during all of 2009.
Those 10 deaths 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, but 2010 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 present to hand out tickets to motorists for myriad violations, including failure to exercise due care when near pedestrians, use of cell phones while driving, failure to wear seat belts and parking in loading zones without 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 brochures containing safety tips in seven languages: English, Chinese, Filipino, Japanese, Korean, Sāmoan 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.
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.
Serlino Harper stood by a fruit stand, studying the explanation of the signal-light pedestrian symbols.
"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 Kaimukī resident who works at Pālama Settlement, said the safety brochures could be helpful "if people read them and pay attention to them."
Pālama Settlement has held several programs, primarily for senior citizens, "helping them learn safer ways" when crossing O'ahu streets, Sweets said.